Separation Anxiety Disorder

Also known as: separation anxiety, phobia.

What is separation anxiety disorder?

Separation anxiety is normal in the very young child (particularly between 8 and 14 months of age). When this fear, anxiousness or distress when not being with a parent or caregiver occurs in children over the age of 6 years, and lasts longer than 4 weeks, the child may suffer from separation anxiety disorder. It affects approximately 4% of children ages 7-11 years of age.

What causes separation anxiety disorder? 

Life changes such as death, divorce, changing schools and other major events can lead to separation anxiety disorder. It also appears to run in families particularly where parents are overly anxious or overprotective (or have family members with anxiety or other mental problems).

What are the symptoms of separation anxiety disorder? 

Common symptoms include a lasting and unrealistic worry that something bad is going to happen to the child or parent/caregiver if the child leaves. Refusal to sleep away from home or away from parent/caregiver, nightmares about being separated, bed wetting, or pleading/tantrums when needing to go to school or physical symptoms like headaches, or stomach aches on school days.

What are separation anxiety disorder care options?

If severe (mild cases may not need medical treatment) treatment options include psychotherapy with cognitive-behavioral therapy, family therapy, and antidepressant and/or anti-anxiety medications.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: 2/22/2018 11:37:45 AM

Weekly Support Programs

​F.O.C.U.S. Program

This group therapy program is designed for children ages 7 to 17 with behaviorial issues, including but not limited to ADHD. This support group meets on Wednesdays.   Learn more.

Calm Kids

Calm Kids is a weekly group therapy course designed to teach children strategies on how to take control over anxiety symptoms. Children will learn how to cope with fears and worries, identify anxiety triggers, how to relax the mind and body and maximize their self-confidence. This group meets on Tuesdays. Learn more.

Pain Management Group

This eight-week program is specifically designed to empower children ages 7 to 18 through complex sensory experiences. Learn more.

Teen Sleep Group

This six-week program is designed for teens ages 13 to 16 experiencing difficulties related to sleep, including daytime sleepiness, trouble waking in the morning, difficulty falling asleep and waking in the middle of the night. Learn more.

Social Skills Group

Children and teens ages 7 to 17 are invited to join this small discussion group to learn how to make, cultivate and maintain friendships. Participants will learn basic conversational skills, and discuss the use of appropriate humor, how to electronically connect with others, and how to manage disagreements. Learn more.

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