Separation anxiety in infancy and early childhood

  • non-existence anxiety
  • anxiety about extinction
  • Anxiety about losing the loved object(1)
  • Anxiety about losing a loving object
  • Anxiety about being attacked by the object
  • death anxiety
  • Anxiety about not being able to reunite…

Existential pains of human beings from birth have been handled by many theorists as ‘separation concerns’. The sudden emergence of motor skills, such as crawling and walking, occurs before the child is emotionally ready to be separated from the mother (2), and panic ensues. On the other hand, the desire for separation has also emerged in the maturing child. It is thought that desiring a separation for which both he and his mother are not ready can create feelings of guilt in the baby and fear of losing the loving mother. The way to cope with these complex and negative emotions is to experience separations that start for short periods of time and gradually increase. The first of these separations occurs when the baby is busy with his inner world while he is with his mother. Afterwards, the ce-e game, short-term separations such as the mother going to the kitchen to get water, and then the mother’s starting part-time and full-time work are listed. In the separation-individuation period, there may be periods of re-exacerbation with the increase of interest in the environment in the 9-15 months, the subsidence of separation anxieties, the realization that the mother does not belong to herself.

Based on this short summary, according to the diagnostic classification systems, no anxiety disorder can be mentioned between the ages of 0-2, but there is a definition that gives signs that the child shows withdrawal behavior in the face of new events and that he will have anxiety disorders in later years: Inhibition to Novelty Disorder. . In this disorder, it is seen that the child loses his joy in the face of new situations and people, becomes withdrawn and cannot explore.

According to child and youth psychiatrists, the early childhood stage begins after the age of 2. At this stage, there are signs that the parents have internalized (3), separation anxiety is over. The child is freed from the threats of helplessness and loneliness with the solution skills he has developed. In terms of attachment, the reaction to separation is different at every age, and protest behavior can occur at any age. But it is important to distinguish between protest and anxiety. If the child is slowing down in his movements, withdrawing, losing his joy or, on the contrary, aggressive behaviors and anger towards his toys and other people in case of separation, it should be accepted as more than protest behavior. Whether before or after the age of 2, if your child cannot enjoy exploring and loses joy during separation moments, it would be good to seek support from a child and youth psychiatrist.

I wish all babies to grow up with joy!

(Note: 1) The ‘object’, which corresponds to ‘other’ in mental health, describes people with whom infants-children-adults have a particularly close relationship. 2) In the text, the ‘primary caregiver’ is mentioned as the ‘mother’ in order not to lose fluency. However, this role should be considered independent of gender. 3) What is meant by ‘internalization’ is the state of understanding that parents do not disappear when they are not seen, and believing that they will appear again after a while.)

exp. Dr. Aybuke Tugce Mustan

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