Separation Anxiety Disorder: (A Comprehensive Guide)


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Page last updated: 15/09/2022

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety disorder is marked by severe anxiety which is out of proportion to people to whom the adolescents are attached.

The adolescents are intensely afraid of being left alone’ the adolescent’s age and situation and occurs when there is a real or threatened separation from refuses to go to school because of the fear of separation and is preoccupied persistently with the dangers which might befall him while separation from the ‘’attachment figure; like fear of being kidnapped, harmed or killed.

He/she cannot sleep alone and gets nightmares about separation. Separation causes an intense emotional reaction like crying, misery, and tantrums. In this article we will discuss separation Anxiety Disorder.

What Is Separation Anxiety Disorder?

 Separation anxiety disorder is a medical condition that is characterized by significant distress when adolescents are away from parents, other caregivers or home.

Separation anxiety disorder can dramatically affect the adolescent’s life by limiting the ability to engage in ordinary activities.

Separation anxiety refers to the developmental stage in which adolescents face anxiety due to the separations of the caregiver usually mother.

The unwillingness of separation between adolescents and parents depicts that there are a lot of attachments between mother and adolescents so that the adolescent is facing anxiety.

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The emotions of grief that separation causes are very closely linked to feelings of anxiety.

Therefore, separation anxiety disorder leads to one feeling grief and anxious.

Gender Differences in Separation Anxiety

Gender differences affect a lot in separation anxiety and also self-concept effects based on gender.

Self-concept is the degree to which the self is perceived positively or negatively; one’s overall attitude towards the self.

The self-evaluation by each individual evaluates one’s attitude about oneself in a positive or negative dimension.

Separation anxiety can interfere with or restrict an adolescent’s normal activities.

He or she becomes isolated from peers, and has difficulty developing and maintaining friendships.

The poor social circles as they avoid from being involved in activities and peers groups.

Separation Anxiety Disorder: (A Comprehensive Guide)

Deficits in life:

  • School attendance and performance can drop. 
  • Many adolescents with separation anxiety disorder appear depressed, withdrawn, and apathetic. Approximately 12 % of adolescents will suffer from a separation anxiety disorder before they reach age 18.
  • Separation anxiety disorder has three peaks; between ages-5-6, 7-9, and 12-14. Although separation anxiety disorder is more common in elementary-school-aged adolescents might experience separation anxiety when adjusting to a transition or a stressful situation (such as divorce, or death of a parent).
  • For example, they may suddenly not be able to: go for sleepovers with friends they know well, stay at school if the parents or trusted family members are not there, if they go on school trips they often go along with parents by using public transport too. 

What Happens During Separation Anxiety Disorder?

Separation anxiety disorder is a condition in which an adolescent is fearful, nervous and stressful when away from home and away from loved ones.

Usually, parents and caregivers with whom adolescents are attached. Some adolescents can also develop physical symptoms like headaches or stomach aches, at the thought of being separated.

The fear of separation causes great distress to the adolescent’s normal activities. Such as going to school and playing with friends. 

Separation anxiety is a normal part of adolescents development .Separation anxiety is widely varied from adolescents to adolescents.

Some adolescents will undergo some degree of anxiety when placed in an unfamiliar situation, especially separated from parents.

In the stage of adolescents, the care from parents or caretaker is very important when they separate suddenly like death or divorce the adolescents go into shock and will face lack of self-confidence and he/she will be involved in an inferiority complex.

Later in life, adolescents will also face poor intellectual skills and a lack of decision-making problems.

Self-Concept and Separation Anxiety Relationship:

Williams & Best (1990) conducted a study of the self-concepts of adolescent girls and boys to provide support for the prediction.

In their study, Malaysia and India included where adolescent girls are expected to remain in the home in their roles as wives and mothers, adolescents have the most negative self-concept.

So adolescent girls have lower self-concept or self-esteem than adolescent’s boys.

But on the other hand some countries are showing the results that adolescent girls have a higher self-concept than boys.

The reason for the higher self-concept in adolescent girls with separation anxiety is that the adolescent girls are getting her busy in the work they do although they are separated.

They overcome the anxiety and do not feel as much feeling of anxiety as others who remain lost in missing them or in memories.

On the other hand, the boys get involved in drugs to resolve the tension in this way they detract from normal life and lose all the happiness in peer relations.

They wouldn’t be able to make relationships with any other people in social circles.

They could not move as healthy normal adolescents in society. The adolescents face loneliness.

The loneliness is an unpleasant emotional and cognitive state based on desiring close relationships but being unable to attain them. 

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Separation Anxiety Onset:

An increasing amount of evidence showed that separation anxiety disorder can arise at any age but not always in continuation with the corresponding childhood disorder.

A revision of diagnostic criteria for this disorder brought into a question as the onset is currently limited before 18 years of age. 

Some studies (Bowen et al. 1990) report a significantly higher prevalence of separation anxiety disorder in adolescent girls than adolescent boys.

In the New Zealand study, over the presentation of females was noted among the preadolescence children with a separation anxiety disorder (Anderson et al, 1987).

Also, higher rates in adolescent girls than adolescent boys were observed. No concept of anxiety without psychoanalytic theory.

A different school of thought is agreed at that point that anxiety is not only explained by the reference of external threat; in some way processes.

Psychoanalytic Theory of Separation Anxiety Disorder:

Psychoanalyst conceives separation anxiety Hermann and Fairbairn; separation anxiety is the most important primary anxiety for others.

Like Freud in both his earlier and later work, it is only the shortest steps of removing from being so, for others again like Melanie Klein and her associates, separation anxiety is seemed to be secondary to and of fewer consequences than other and more primitive anxieties.

This being the present state of thought inevitably a review of literature has to touch on all aspects of the theory of anxiety.

The literature arouses from the need to relate the observation of the behavior of adolescents on separation from their mother to traditional and current theory.

Such observation shows the sequence of behavior that commonly occurs when the children are of ages of 12 months or four years are removed from mother-figure to whom they are attached to the care of stranger’s falls into three main phases.

‘Protest’, Despair’, and ‘Detachment’. The examination of the theoretical problems posed shows that each phase raises a different one.

Like protest raises the problem especially of separation anxiety; despair that of grief and mourning; detachment that of defense.

Findings from a structured questionnaire showed that adolescents with separation anxiety disorder face more low self-concept and lower self-esteem.

These results are also influenced by the genders in which girls adolescents face lower self-concept than boys.

Insecure Attachment Relationship Theory about Separation Anxiety Disorder:

Insecure attachment relations have been theorized to play a significant role in the development of depressogenic modes of adaptation and to thus form vulnerability factors for the emergence of depressive disorder in adolescents.

This study examined the security of parents and peer attachment among four groups of early adolescents.

Clinically depressed nondepressed psychiatric control, non-psychiatric controls, and adolescents with resolve depression.

Depressed adolescents reported significantly less secure parent attachment than either of the control groups and less secure peer attachment than the non-psychiatric control group.

Attachment security of adolescents with resolved depression was on a par with the non-psychiatric patients; the security of attachment to parents was negatively correlated with the severity of depression according to the interview and self-reports ratings.

Less secure attachment to parents, but generally not to peers, was also related to more maladaptive attributional styles, presence of separation anxiety disorder, and history of suicidal ideation.

How to overcome separation anxiety among children/adolescents and adults:

There are ways to get rid of separation anxiety disorder although this is not an easy task it is even impossible too.

Just make up your mind and start doing following the ways. In the beginning, everything is very difficult but the determination, power and high aim can turn the time too.

Break the wall of misery and stand with societal norms and live a healthy life. The ways are below:

Practice separation:

This practice is for parents who want to recover their child from a separation anxiety disorder.

Just you have to do the little gap between yourself and child so that they try to cope with anxiety and he/she gets involved and able to deal with separate times.

Leave your child to the caregiver for a short interval and gradually increase the that the child makes he able to cope in the environment and also learn to control emotions too.

Habits of goodbye:

This thing should be implemented to the parents that they make the habits to their child when they are going to nap and anywhere they say a little goodbye with a hug and kiss.

This thing gives the gesture to the child that parents are going and shall be back soon.

Counsel your child:

This is a very important thing that counsels your child and guides them about not being sad and crying when any part of family members goes outside for work or any occasion.

Make him able to think about it, that thing behavior is nothing more than misery.

Create motivation in a child that they can live alone also enjoy the time with pets and toys or by watching favorite games or TV shows.

Reduces frightening activities:

The best thing to reduce separation anxiety is to stop involving in any frightful events just like they don’t switch off all the lights when you are saying goodbye to your child at night.

Arrange some kiddy toys near the child so that the child feels secure and safe with that toy and can sleep.

Treatments for a separation anxiety disorder:

As you know that the symptoms vary from person to person the disorder intensity too.

Some children, adolescents, and adults need different treatments according to their mental level.

The treatments that a psychologist and psychiatrist can apply are stated below:


Counseling is a basic thing in separation anxiety. Continues counseling can lead the better results and understanding about the irrational fears and real behaviors,


Psychologists implement psychotherapies by following different relaxing techniques to cope with anxiety and fears.

Behavior modification therapy:

The psychologist implemented behavior modification therapy to change the behaviors of a person according to the environments and able them to by adaptation skills.

Cognitive therapy:

The psychologist implemented cognitive therapy to change and break the irrational belief and thoughts and convert them into normal and healthy thinking.


If the symptoms are more severe and therapies are not enough then psychiatrist prescribed medicines like Luvox that is approved by the Food and Drugs Administration FDA.


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