• Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder Symptoms and Treatment

    by Caroline Ryther
    on Oct 23rd, 2018

While the term “separation anxiety” is usually associated with children, especially those younger than two years old, the truth is that adults can experience this condition, as well. In some cases, an individual may have had this disorder as a child, but in other situations it may occur just in adulthood.

Separation anxiety develops when a person is extremely afraid of being separated from another person (or a group of people, even), and it often manifests itself in the form of physical symptoms, in addition to psychological ones.

More often than not, adults experience separation anxiety when their partner, parent, or child moves away. However, an individual may experience anxiety due to an underlying mental health condition, e.g. a psychotic disorder or an autism spectrum disorder.

According to the American Psychiatric Association's diagnostic manual for mental health conditions—the DSM-5—a person is diagnosed with separation anxiety when they face several of the following symptoms:

These symptoms can last for six months or longer in adults, and a lot of times they can have an almost debilitating effect on a person’s life.

Risk Factors for Separation Anxiety

According to an article in the journal Personality and Mental Health, people who have obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) are more likely to experience separation anxiety in their adult years. Moreover, separation anxiety usually goes hand in hand with other conditions, such as social phobias, agoraphobia, or panic disorders, making a person’s life truly difficult.

It’s been scientifically proven that women are more likely to experience separation anxiety than men, and that a history of traumatic events from childhood can lead to this particular disorder. Childhood adversity and big life changes (divorce or children going to college) can also increase the likelihood of a person developing separation anxiety disorder later in their life.

Treating Separation Anxiety Disorder in Adults

If an adult starts experiencing symptoms of separation anxiety, a doctor will usually treat them through psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most used forms of psychotherapy, and its goal is to help an individual identify thoughts and behaviors that are making their separation anxiety worse. Group and family therapy, as well as support groups, can also come into consideration when your doctor’s deciding what the best move for you is.

In certain situations, a doctor may also prescribe anti-anxiety medications to a person to help them get through the most acute symptoms of separation anxiety. However, if an underlying disorder exists, these medications won’t work in the long run, and your doctor will need to treat the underlying condition, as well. In addition to that, it’s worth noting that some types of anti-anxiety medications can be addictive, which is why doctors are not too keen on prescribing them.

Do you need help overcoming your separation anxiety disorder? Dr. Best and the experienced Neuroscience Center team are here to help you get back to your regular life, without the symptoms that this condition brings.

Schedule a consultation:

Phone: 847-306-8938

Email: pm@mind.md

Author Caroline Ryther

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