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: 11/20/2019 3:22:36 PM

Pediatric Psychology

The Pediatric Psychology team at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital uses a multidisciplinary and family centered treatment approach for a variety of illnesses and conditions.

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​F.O.C.U.S. Program

8 week program. This group therapy program is designed for children ages 7 to 17 with behaviorial issues, including but not limited to ADHD. The weekly sessions teach innovative techniques to assist children with managing feelings, developing organization skills, maximizing their concentration abilities and socialization skills. Learn more.

Social Skills Group

8 week program. 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.

Calm Kids

8 week program. 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. Learn more.

Pain Management Group

8 week program. This program is specifically designed to empower children ages 7-18 through complex sensory experiences. Each session is created to teach participants evidenced-based techniques to better manage pain and improve overall quality of life. Learn more.

Teen Sleep Group

8 week program. This program is designed for teens ages 13-16 experiencing difficulties related to sleep, including daytime sleepiness, trouble waking in the morning, difficulty falling asleep and waking in the middle of the night. The goal of this group is to give teens the tools and strategies they need in order to get more sleep and better quality sleep. Learn more.

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Phobias

A phobia is an excessive, unreasonable, persistent fear of something, place or situation, that causes the child to feel anxious when exposed to it. Learn more

Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is a form of therapy and counseling that is conducted by a mental health professional, for example a psychologist, a licensed mental health counselor, social worker or a psychiatrist. Learn more

Family Therapy

Family and group therapy are both forms of psychological counseling that involve multiple participants and can take many forms. Families can all go to therapy together to improve communication and address conflicts. Learn more