Separation Anxiety

holding hands

Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety is a normal stage in childhood development. Infants to toddlers
experience periods of separation anxiety, but they usually grow out of the phase by
around three years old. Yet, for some children, separation anxiety persists into early
school years and may be a sign of Separation Anxiety Disorder.

More Characteristics
Separation Anxiety disorder occurs in children who have a prolonged or more intense
stage of separation anxiety. Their behavior can interfere with daily activities like
attending school or a daycare facility. Even though it is usually associated with children,
separation anxiety disorder can develop in teenagers or adults.

Symptoms to look for:
– Recurrent excessive distress when anticipating or experiencing separation from home or
from major attachment figures.
– Persistent and excessive worry about losing major attachment figures or about possible
harm to them, such as illness, injury, disasters, or death.
– Persistent and excessive worry about experiencing an untoward event (e.g., getting lost,
being kidnapped, having an accident, becoming ill) that causes separation from a major
attachment figure.
– Persistent reluctance or refusal to go out, away from home, to school, to work, or
elsewhere because of fear of separation.
– Persistent and excessive fear of or reluctance about being alone or without major
attachment figures at home or in other settings.
– Persistent reluctance or refusal to sleep away from home or to go to sleep without being
near a major attachment figure.
– Repeated nightmares involving the theme of separation.
– Repeated complaints of physical symptoms 9e.g., head-aches, stomachaches, nausea,
vomiting) when separation from major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated

Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-5. American Psychiatric
Association, 2016.