Separation anxiety disorder is characterized by excessive distress about being left or abandoned. It’s a painful feeling and can be due to experiencing trauma. Sometimes people fear being alone because of traumatic events that happened to them. Due to the trauma, they struggle with emotional regulation when they’re by themselves. A person with separation anxiety is anxious about being away from their loved ones. It can occur at a young age or can happen into adulthood. It can even impact animals! Many people associate separation anxiety with young children, but it can occur at any age. Here’s how the condition affects people of all ages.
Separation anxiety in children
When we think of separation anxiety, typically, we envision a child tugging at their mother or father’s sleeve, not wanting them to go. Separation anxiety occurs in children when they become fearful that their loved ones will not return. They’re worried that their parent or guardian won’t be there for some reason. Separation anxiety could be the sign of an insecure attachment issue. Kids who struggle with detaching from parents display it in different ways. Here are the symptoms of separation anxiety:
- A disproportionate worry or concern that something bad will happen to the child’s caregiver.
- An unrealistic and lasting worry that something bad will happen to the child if they leave the caregiver
- Fear of being by oneself
- Not wanting to sleep away from the child’s home
- Feeling guilty
- Wetting the bed
- Stomach aches or vomiting
Children often act out when they have separation anxiety. They may beg and plead for their caregiver not to leave. It can be painful for the caregiver to watch. It’s crucial to remember that the child isn’t throwing a tantrum to be manipulative when they have separation anxiety. They’re in pain and trying to let people know.
Separation anxiety in adults
Adults who have separation anxiety are extremely anxious. They may suffer from panic attacks at the idea of people leaving or abandoning them. Separation anxiety in adults could be due to childhood trauma or something they experienced as an adult. Adults with separation anxiety can struggle with focus and concentration issues. They may withdraw from social situations and have trouble connecting with others. Here are some of the symptoms of separation anxiety in adults:
- Profound fear that your loved ones or you will be taken away
- Refusal to leave your loved ones
- Panic attacks
- Trouble sleeping due to worrying about being left by your loved ones
For an adult to be diagnosed with separation anxiety, these symptoms need to significantly impair a person’s functioning. Separation anxiety in adults is different from how it manifests in children. An adult is better able to process the reasons for their fear. Children may be afraid but not be able to articulate why they’re scared that their caregiver is leaving. In some ways, having separation anxiety as an adult can be more transparent to treat. If you’re curious about learning more about separation anxiety, it’s helpful to do research online. Another option is seeing a mental health professional. When you see a therapist, you can discuss what scares you about people leaving.
Therapy and separation anxiety
Separation anxiety can be treated with therapy. A licensed therapist is excellent at understanding the causes of fear of abandonment. If you’re experiencing separation anxiety, and you want to talk about it, a therapist is an ideal person to discuss these issues with and get support. You don’t have to be fearful of being alone forever. When you talk about your separation anxiety in therapy, you can get to the root of its origins and start feeling secure in yourself.
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