Separation Anxiety Disorder
There is an increase in counseling requests when school starts and this is often due to separation anxiety. It is not uncommon for most kids to go through a period of difficulty when separating from parents when being dropped off at school, childcare or church. This is a normal developmental process.
However, sometimes it becomes a much bigger problem and may become an anxiety disorder if it persists for 4 weeks or longer and if the symptoms are severe. The core fear for a child struggling with this imagining something terrible happening to himself or herself and/or to a parent (or caregiver) resulting in separation. For example, a child may afraid of being kidnapped or that the parent might be in an accident. One young patient was afraid of being left at school after everyone was gone.
Effect of Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety becomes an area of major crisis because it interferes the normal process of growing up, family activities and intense meltdowns. Refusing to go to school or going with unrelenting distress is often the point things break down. Other kids with this may go to school fine but refuse to stay the night with a friend or insist on sleeping with mom or dad or come into their room at night. Depending on the age of child or situation it can be pretty catastrophic for a family. It might keep a parent from going to work. Depending on where you live, the school might be very intolerant with too many absences. It will impact your child socially. It may cause them to avoid situations where friendships develop because they are worried. Then either you or your child have to come up with excuses trying to salvage the relationships.
- repeating extreme distress when anticipating or experiencing separation from home or parent
- Extreme worry about something bad happening to a parent such as illness, injury, disasters, or death.
- Anxiety about events that could lead to separation like getting lost or being kidnapped
- Resistance or refusal to go somewhere for fear of separation (ex. school, sleep-over)
- Fear of being home alone
- Strong desire to sleep with or near parents
- complains about physical symptoms like nausea when anticipating or experiencing separation
Life is full of uncertainty, especially when you are a kid. Most kids experience some distress when they are separated from the safety and security of mom and dad at various times, especially when it is unfamiliar. Sometimes, as with this anxiety disorder, the normal childhood worry escalates out of control. Many kids will grow out of this. In fact, it is rare for this type of anxiety to persist into adulthood. However, it the symptoms are interfering too much and persisting too long then consider getting help. Anxiety disorders are generally very treatable and help is available.
For kids who get stuck in separation fears then treatment is essential and Turnaround was created to fill that need.