Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is partly defined as the fear of being away from the primary caregiver. The most common way for children to act out their fears of separation is through tantrums and clinging.

This is a healthy and normal part of your child's development between the ages of 8 and 14 months. Separation anxiety disorder, on the other hand, is a diagnosis for children who fall outside the boundaries of this otherwise normal developmental stage.


The symptoms of separation anxiety as a developmental stage are deemed normal until the age of 2 and always include elements that cause the parent to question leaving, including:

  • Excessive crying

  • Forcefully holding onto the caregiver's body or clothes

  • Refusal to engage with a caregiver or other children

  • Screaming


While experts have not recognized the underlying causes of separation anxiety, there are several external triggers that are known to worsen the anxiety, including:

  • New situations that take children out of their routine, including a new caregiver, a recent move, or a new sibling

  • Family difficulties, such as marital problems or financial issues, that put stress on the adults in the home can have a negative effect on children

  • A family history of anxiety or other mental illnesses


While appropriate separation anxiety in children doesn't necessarily require treatment, separation anxiety disorder may require professional intervention with a trained mental health professional.


Psychotherapy can be helpful in treating your older child with separation anxiety or separation anxiety disorder.


If psychotherapy is not enough, or if the diagnosed person is suffering from a co-occurring disorder like depression, an antidepressant medication like a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) or anti-anxiety medication may be prescribed to help manage severe symptoms.


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