separation anxiety disorder

Attachment has an important place in many areas from individuals’ ways of establishing relationships in their lives to their perspectives on the world. However, sometimes children who are preparing for adulthood and sometimes adults are attached to the person they are attached to with an intense and inefficient bond that is not suitable for their developmental level. Experiencing intense anxiety, worry, stress and fear about the moment of separation from the person (mother, father, another member of the family, caregiver, romantic partner…) at the age when separation and individualization is required may suggest that the individual may experience separation anxiety. In summary, separation anxiety is the attachment of individuals to someone important to them (such as mother, father, lover, friend) in a way that is not appropriate for their developmental age, and even the thought of leaving that person causes intense stress, anxiety and fear.

People with separation anxiety may become dysfunctional in their lives over time. They fail to fulfill their work, school, and responsibilities in order to stay with the person they are attached to and stay with that person. Separation anxiety can be seen after 8 months and is more active mostly in school-age children. So much so that people may show physical symptoms such as abdominal pain, sweating, headache, nausea, and dizziness due to this intense anxiety. Children with separation anxiety may want to sleep with their parents, or even wake up and talk about their parents controlling their breathing. As you can see, these behaviors actually originate from intense anxiety. This anxiety, which is usually seen in children, can also exist in adulthood. In some cases, this anxiety that starts in childhood can continue into adulthood. In adulthood, it mostly occurs after negative life events such as accident, injury, loss of acquaintance, feeling that the person will be abandoned.

WHAT CAUSES SEPARATION ANXIETY?

In fact, separation anxiety can have many causes, such as parental attitudes, traumatic life events, or learning by observing. Traumatic experiences such as death, abuse, having an accident, being a victim or witness of domestic violence can cause people to become dependent on those around them. For example, the fear of abandonment for the next romantic partner of an individual who has had a bad breakup and becoming dependent on his partner in relation to this is related to separation anxiety.

The attitudes of parents who have difficulty in managing their own anxieties and, accordingly, are very protective towards their children, also cause separation anxiety.

Children who have been harmed by the outside world and have taken shelter in their parents and adults who have taken shelter in another may also experience separation anxiety. Children and adults who have been subjected to abuse, bullying, sarcasm, and ill-treatment are deeply concerned about the idea of ​​being separated from the individuals they take shelter from. Individuals who have gone through a psychologically distressing process such as depression and borderline personality traits may also become dependent on an attachment figure that they gain strength from.

WHAT ARE THE TREATMENT METHODS FOR SEPARATION ANXIETY?

If we are talking about a child with separation anxiety, first of all, the family must accept that there are duties that fall on them. Just as children learn to love and respect from their families, they also see anxiety and fear from their families. This point is important for parents to be patient and consistent. Throughout the process, they need to encourage their children to be active alone and as individuals in activities appropriate for their age.

When adults struggle with separation anxiety, they must first be aware of the situation. Awareness is the first and important step on the way to a solution. They need to remember that when they feel dependent and needy in their relationship with the person they are attached to, it is because of the anxiety they experience and they actually make the situation catastrophic in their thoughts. Anxious people may see the world as more frightening than it is. It should be noted that this is actually a game of your anxiety. Think about how helpless you feel when you’re alone, away from your attachment, and then look at what you’ve accomplished as an independent individual. Friendships, academic achievements, psychological well-being, talents, hobbies, things you do to improve yourself… Try to remember as often as possible that they are all things you have accomplished as an independent individual. However, it is very important for individuals who have lost their functionality to get help from a specialist.

You can measure your own separation anxiety with the test below. If you answered yes to at least 4 of the options, it would probably be good for you to talk to an expert.

I always worry when I’m leaving home

YEAH

NO

I worry when I will be separated from the person I am attached to (mother, father, another member of the family, my caregiver, my romantic partner…)

YEAH

NO

I am afraid that disaster will befall the people I am attached to. I think they will disappear, they will be kidnapped, they will get sick, they will get hurt, they will die.

YEAH

NO

I do not want to leave the house for fear of separation, I resist not going to work or school

YEAH

NO

I do not want to be alone, I want the person I am attached to by my side, I am reluctant to be alone at home or elsewhere.

YEAH

NO

I find it uncomfortable to sleep outside the house or when one of my attachments is not with me.

YEAH

NO

I have nightmares about separation from time to time in my sleep.

YEAH

NO

When the people I am attached to are not with me, I have physical complaints such as headache, stomachache, nausea.

YEAH

NO

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