Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety
Separation Anxiety
Separation anxiety disorder is often considered a childhood affliction that you eventually “grow out of”. This however, is a common misconception. Separation anxiety disorder occurs when an individual experiences excessive fear or anxiety when separated from a particular attachment (ie. parent, boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, sibling, or sometimes even a pet)

Separation anxiety disorder is often considered a childhood affliction that you eventually “grow out of”. This however, is a common misconception. Separation anxiety disorder occurs when an individual experiences excessive fear or anxiety when separated from a particular attachment  (ie. parent, boyfriend/girlfriend, spouse, sibling, or sometimes even a pet)

As a child, this attachment often relates to a parent or guardian. As adults however, this may be a spouse, partner, roommate or close blood relative. No matter the situation, the sufferer may experience constant overwhelming worry when their “attachment” leaves for school, work or vacation. Those who experience onset of this form of anxiety in adulthood often is prompted by a major life event, such as an unexpected death of a loved one or a friend/child moving away.

Why Does Separation Anxiety Disorder Occur?

It is common for young children to feel worried or upset when separated from their parent/guardian. Similarly, anxiety and sadness commonly sets in when adolescents leave home for the first time for school or a job. This response is part of the fight-flight-freeze system designed to protect us from threat and danger. In small doses the fight-flight-freeze system is useful. However, we expect eventually the individual gets used to these separations, realize there is no danger and learn to successfully cope. For some adults however, their response to separation remains extreme, thereby failing to adapt or cope effectively with separation.

Common Worries

  • Something bad happening to spouse/loved one
  • Fear of getting lost, being separated or left behind
  • Fear of solo travelling without their “attachment”

Physical Symptoms

  • Stomach-aches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Racing heart
  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath

Common Characteristics

  • Reluctance to apply for a job, or to seek a promotion
  • Avoid participating in new activities
  • Avoid going places without a friend or loved one/refusal to spend time alone
  • Frequent nightmares
  • Commonly call in sick from work
  • Difficulty making or maintaining friendships due to fear of being away from their primary attachment
  • Lack of independence
  • Dependent on others

Remember, if you are the primary attachment for someone struggling with separation anxiety, you do not have to support them alone. If you have not yet done so, you may benefit from seeking professional advice to learn how best to support this individual. Make sure the individual struggling comes along with you so you can create a plan together.


* Please note that NO information provided by Cam’s Kids Foundation is intended or implied to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content and information is for general information purposes only. Please speak to your health care practitioner regarding any questions you may have, or to confirm a diagnosis.

To learn more, please visit:

https://www.anxietycanada.com/adults/separation-anxiety

https://childmind.org/article/what-is-separation-anxiety/

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