What is Separation Anxiety Disorder?

Are you someone who experiences intense fear, distress, and panic when it comes time to part with a loved one? If so, then you may be struggling with separation anxiety disorder. This condition can cause individuals to feel overwhelmed by worry and dread while they are away from the person they care about most—making everyday tasks difficult or unbearable. Therefore, it is essential to understand the causes of this disorder to receive the proper diagnosis and treatment options available so that those who struggle with it may find peace in life instead of anguish. This blog will discuss separation anxiety disorder, its symptoms and risk factors, and potential treatments that could help alleviate your symptoms.

Separation anxiety disorder and how it differs from everyday worries?

Separation anxiety disorder is a psychological condition that predominantly affects children. When separated from their primary caregivers or familiar surroundings, it manifests as excessive distress and anxiety. It is an intense emotional response that goes beyond the typical sadness or worry experienced by children during temporary separations from their loved ones. Unlike everyday concerns, a separation anxiety disorder can significantly impair a child's ability to function academically, socially, or emotionally, often leading to clingy behaviour, reluctance or refusal to participate in activities or even physical symptoms such as headaches and stomachaches. In some cases, the anxiety may extend to periods where separation is anticipated, with the mere thought of an impending departure triggering distress.

Common signs and symptoms of separation anxiety disorder

Separation anxiety disorder can significantly impact the lives of those who experience it, making it essential to recognise its common signs and symptoms. Individuals with this disorder typically exhibit an excessive fear or anxiety about separation from those they're attached to, such as family members or close friends. This fear may lead to recurrent distress, which can manifest in physical symptoms like headaches or stomachaches, as well as emotional symptoms such as excessive worry, nervousness, and persistent feelings of sadness. In some cases, individuals with a separation anxiety disorder may refuse to leave their loved ones or be hesitant to engage in social or academic activities without their presence. By understanding these common signs and symptoms, people can better support those experiencing separation anxiety and help them seek the appropriate treatment.

Causes of separation anxiety disorder in children and adults

The development of separation anxiety disorder in children and adults can stem from many factors, manifesting as an intense emotional response when faced with separation from loved ones or familiar surroundings. Potential triggers for this disorder include:

  • Traumatic childhood experiences, such as neglect, abuse, or abrupt abandonment
  • Genetic predisposition and family history of mental health disorders
  • Personality traits like being overly dependent, shy, or having poor self-esteem

 Additionally, environmental factors, such as moving to a new home, starting a new school, or experiencing a significant life change, may exacerbate these feelings of separation anxiety. As such, understanding and addressing the root causes of this anxiety disorder is essential for adequately managing symptoms and improving the overall quality of life.

Diagnosing and treating separation anxiety disorder

Separation anxiety disorder is a condition that typically affects children and adolescents, causing excessive fear and distress when they're separated from a primary attachment figure, such as a parent or caregiver. Timely diagnosis and proper treatment are crucial for mitigating the impact of this disorder on a child's development and overall well-being. Mental health professionals rely on careful observation and analysis of a child's behaviour and emotional responses in various situations to accurately diagnose separation anxiety. Treatment options often include cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), where children learn coping mechanisms and distress management skills to handle stress and play therapy, allowing them to express their emotions in a safe and supportive environment. Additionally, some cases may require family therapy, where family members are educated about separation anxiety and provided with tools to support their child during this challenging time. Prompt intervention and a personalised approach can help children and adolescents overcome separation anxiety disorder and lead fulfilling, independent lives.


Separation anxiety disorder can be a complicated and often overwhelming experience, but getting help is essential to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. Various therapies available can provide practical skills and techniques for managing stressors and long-term strategies for lasting recovery. Working with a mental health professional, you can develop the skills to manage your daily life and create a meaningful and satisfying lifestyle. A combination of medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, and self-care can often be enough to manage symptoms of separation anxiety disorder with an eventual long-term remission that leads to living life without fear.