Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation Anxiety Disorder is self-descriptive. It involves excessive anxiety that occurs when a child is separated from home or a family caregiver. These children tend to come from very close-knit families. The most significant social development problem is school refusal. Some children with separation anxiety will refuse to go to school, to the point of having tantrums at the bus stop or at the school door. This may lead to academic adjustment problems, and social problems with their peer group. This problem sometimes develops after a traumatic life event, such as the death of a relative or a pet, or prolonged illness in the child or a family member. At times, it occurs after relocating to a new environment, or following the divorce or separation of his/her parents.

Children with this psychological behavior problem display inappropriate, excessive anxiety when separating from home or a caregiver. The child may worry about something bad happening to a parent, or may worry that they will experience a disaster if separated from the parent (being kidnapped, etc.). The child may be reluctant to go to school, or may be very fearful of being alone, without a parent. They may be fearful of sleeping away from home, or away from their parent. They may experience recurrent nightmares with separation themes, and sometimes will complain of a variety of physical symptoms to avoid separation (headache, vomiting, etc.).

The course of the problem is variable, Typically, there will be periods of improvement, followed by periods of recurring symptoms, which may occur over several years. Psychological treatment is needed to help parents learn how to manage the problem.

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