Recognizing Separation Anxiety Disorder in Children

In order to be able to recognize separation anxiety disorder in children, it’s important to first understand the answer to the very basic question: What is separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety disorder is a problem that occurs when a child becomes quite nervous and fearful when they are away from home or find themselves separated from loved ones. Usually this involves a parent or caregiver of a child to whom they have become quite attached.

The age group that is most affected by separation anxiety is ages 8 to 14 months. However, in theses ages separation anxiety is considered quite normal. At this stage, children are often seen as being trouser huggers or clingy. They are afraid of new and unfamiliar places, and people.

When separation anxiety affects children who are more than 6 years old, lasts greater than four weeks, and is pervasive, then it may be considered to be a true disorder.

What are the symptoms of separation anxiety disorder in children?

One sign of separation anxiety that parents and caregivers should look for, is an unusual fear of being left alone. Refusing to go to school as another symptom. Having nightmares that involve being separated. Headaches and stomachaches that suddenly appear on school days could be symptoms.

Having long-lasting, and unrealistic worries that something horrible is going to occur to the parents or caregivers if the child leaves. Conversely, if a child feels that something horrible will happen to them, if the caregiver leaves is also another symptom of separation anxiety disorder.

Fear of being left alone could also be another symptom of of this disorder. Recurrent nightmares involving being left alone, or abandoned could be symptoms of separation anxiety disorder.

What are the causes of separation anxiety disorder in children?

In many cases, separation anxiety disorder begins after dramatic a dramatic event. Such events could be stays in hospitals, death of someone close to them, or even a change in the environment, in which they live. It is thought that it may cases, these fears are really projections of the parents fear onto the child. Interestingly enough, children suffer from separation anxiety disorder often have members of their family that suffer from both anxiety and depression disorders as well.

How often does separation anxiety disorder occur in children?

Studies show that around 5% of children in the United States suffer separation anxiety disorder. This age group is of children from ages 7 to 11 old. It only affects about 1.3% of teens. It is note-worthy that both males and females are equally affected.

Diagnosing separation anxiety

After ruling out physical basis for separation anxiety disorder symptoms, a child usually will be referred to a specialist for definitive testing and diagnosis. This is done with the use of assessment tools designed to evaluate for separation anxiety disorder.

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