Heard Of Separation Anxiety?

Heard Of Separation Anxiety?

Heard Of Separation Anxiety?

-By Disha Suresh

It is quite natural to see a child throw tantrums and express distress when they are separated from their parents. This phenomenon is known as separation anxiety. It refers to excessive fear and worries exhibited about separation from a parental figure or a familiar environment such as a home. Separation anxiety is an anxiety disorder, amongst others such as generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder and The American Psychological Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5 for mental health conditions lists the following symptoms of separation anxiety. 

  • Fear of being alone
  • Excessive worrying about being alone
  • Heightened distress when separated from certain people or pets

Separation anxiety develops in infants as they understand the concept of object permanence. This is the concept of knowing that an object exists even when the senses cannot perceive it. So, after around 6 months, when an infant knows that their parents are not physically in their vicinity, they might become uncomfortable. When the infants become toddlers, they develop a little more independence, and they also become more aware of separations. Their growing age will allow them to be more loud, angry and physical in their reactions. It is when the children reach the preschool age that the anxiety becomes extremely clear. They cry while being dropped at school and physically make efforts to go back to their parents. This phenomenon can persist even during later schooling years. If it persists in an older child, it might be an indicator for an anxiety disorder, social anxiety or agoraphobia. Adults too might experience separation anxiety. For example, college-going kids, a recent divorcee or a newly working adult might exhibit symptoms of this phenomenon. 

In children, the process of separation can be made easier through many methods. The parent must practice leaving their child with a caregiver for shorter periods initially so that they get accustomed to it. Also, children exhibit separation anxiety more when they tired or hungry, so, these needs have to be met before the separation. The reaction of separation can be reduced if the goodbye is quick and prompt. 

Separation anxiety in children can be stressful and emotional for the parent. They might end up feeling extremely guilty about leaving their child alone or could be overwhelmed by the amount of attention they require. But, parents should know that this phenomenon until a certain age is a healthy sign of parent-child attachment. It fades away as the child becomes older and more independent.