Separation Anxiety Disorder

What is Separation Anxiety Disorder?

BY: Cassie Sieradzky

Separation anxiety is characterized by excessive fear or anxiety about separating from home or an attachment figure. Children under the age of 2 often experience separation anxiety, however a key feature of the disorder is that it persists past the developmentally appropriate period. Children with separation anxiety disorder may cling to their parents excessively, refuse to go to sleep without their parents, abstain from going to a friend’s house, and may even require someone to be with them when they walk around their house. Children with separation anxiety disorder also commonly complain of physical symptoms during separation, such as headaches, nausea and vomiting. When separation does occur, the child may seem withdrawn, sad, and have difficulty concentrating. Some other symptoms of the disorder are worry about losing or harm coming to their attachment figures, worry about experiencing an unexpected negative event such as becoming ill, and nightmares involving themes of separation. For a diagnosis to be considered, these symptoms must be present for at least four weeks and must cause impairment in school or socially.

Separation anxiety disorder is the most prevalent anxiety disorder in children under the age of 12. In a given 12-month period in the U.S., the prevalence of separation anxiety disorder is estimated to be 4% of children and is equally common for males and females. The cause of separation anxiety disorder is unknown, however separation anxiety disorder commonly develops after a person experiences a major stressor, such as a loss. To resolve the feelings of separation anxiety, a child must develop a strong sense of safety in their environment, as well as trust in people other than their parents, and trust in the care giver’s return.

If you or a loved one appears to be suffering from separation anxiety disorder, licensed psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurse practitioners, and psychotherapists at Arista Counseling & Psychotherapy can assist you. Contact our Paramus, NJ or Manhattan, NY offices respectively, at (201) 368-3700 or (212) 722-1920 to set up an appointment. For more information, visit

Separation Anxiety. (2017, April 18). Retrieved February 27, 2018, from

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