Separation Anxiety Disorder

What is Separation Anxiety Disorder?

Separation Anxiety Disorder is extreme anxiety when away from home or from a parent or other caretaker. The child needs to know where the parent is or needs to stay in touch (usually by telephone). The child may become extremely upset when left with a babysitter and may report nightmares with themes of separation or death of the parent. They may worry that illness or an accident may occur to the parent or caretaker. Children refuse to be away from their parents, to go to school, or sleep over at a friend’s house. In severe cases, the child may be afraid to be in a room separate from the parent, even in the home.

How Common is Separation Anxiety Disorder?

About 4-5% of all children and younger adolescents may suffer from separation anxiety disorder, although the disorder is more common among younger children. There is no clear cause for separation anxiety disorder. We do know that it appears to run in families and so parents will often report a childhood history of separation anxiety. At other times, stressful life events such as the death of a close family member, illness in the child or a close family member, or a change in family environment (divorce, move to a new city) may also contribute to the onset of separation anxiety disorder.