Learn About Ailments | Separation


Separation anxiety occurs from a perceived loss of security in children who have difficulty 'letting go' of a parent or carer. Babies can become anxious when separated from their primary carer not knowing when, or if, the carer will return. Young children develop anxiety disorders fearing a parent or carer will fall ill or be involved in an accident during periods of separation. Adults can also suffer separation anxiety disorders when apart from their children or partner.

In This Article
Causes of separation anxiety Symptoms of separation anxiety
Diagnosis of separation anxiety Related Terms

Separation anxiety is a mental health disorder caused by genetic and environmental factors such as a family history of anxiety or mental stresses on the mother during pregnancy.

Separation anxiety is typically displayed by babies aged six to twelve months and again at around eighteen months. As a baby goes through the natural stages of development, it begins to see a world outside of any given moment.  For example, as an adult understands that when someone leaves the house they will return, so a baby must learn this too.

In the first months, a baby may cry when a parent exits a room and become clingy when the parent is around. This is a perfectly normal response, however for some infants this can continue for years.

The situation can be reversed. Parents who leave their children at a nursery or a family member's home can suffer with separation anxiety. Adults in personal relationships can also suffer with separation anxiety particularly if one partner spends most of their time at home while the other works.

There are a number of symptoms that characterise separation anxiety. These include:
  • Persistent and excessive worry that something bad will happen to loved ones
  • Fear of losing someone close
  • Fear of getting lost or being kidnapped
  • Refusing to go to school or being left alone without a parent or family member around
  • Refusing to go to sleep without being physically close to a loved one
  • Nightmares involving separation from a loved one
  • Physical complaints such as headaches or stomach pain when separated from a loved one (or when separation is imminent)

If you or your child are suffering with separation anxiety then in the first instance you should visit your GP and explain the problems you are having. The GP will then refer you to a health care professional who is qualified to make a diagnosis of separation anxiety disorder (this will often involve a paediatrician, child psychologist or other mental health specialist).

You and your child or partner will be assessed in order to identify how each individual perceives the situation. You will be asked about specific symptoms of anxiety and the health care specialist will explore if there is an underlying mental health problem.

For a diagnosis of separation anxiety disorder, three or more of the above symptoms should be present for at least a month. There should also be significant problems with social relationships and school (or daycare in the case of younger children). If the disorder is not considered to be present, then other mental health conditions will be explored.

Separation Anxiety
Infant Separation
Child Separation
Toddler Separtion
Teenager Separation
Mother Separation
Father Separation
Family Separation
Partner Separation

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