SEPERATION ANXIETY DISORDER

SEPERATION ANXIETY DISORDER

Anxiety Disorder is the experience of chronic or intense feelings of anxiety that is feeling about something that might happen to them in future. People face difficulties functioning on a daily basis. They also experience fear about the things that might happen to them. They try their best to avoid situations that provoke their emotional responses. So, they face problems in social situations like public gatherings or in their jobs etc. They have a lifetime prevalence of 28.8 percent and overall 12-month prevalence of 18.1 percent. Of all cases, 23 percent are considered as severe. People between the age group 30 to 44 reports lifetime prevalence of anxiety disorders. Women are 60 percent more likely than men to experience anxiety disorders.

Separation Anxiety Disorder is experienced by children when they have intense anxiety concerning separation from their home or caregivers. It is natural for a young child to feel anxious when they are separated from their parents. It usually starts from a child’s first birthday and can last up to their fourth birthday. Parents can ease their child’s anxiety by being patient and by setting some limits. However, some kid’s anxiety does not go away and it becomes a sign of a larger problem that is separation anxiety disorder. It is not a normal stage of development. Children with this disorder avoid situations in which they will be parted from their caregivers. Even the thought of separation causes extreme anxiety. Situations like when their caregivers are going to work or before going to sleep at night they become anxious. They ask one of their parents to stay with them and leave them after they sleep because they get nightmares regarding separation. Adults avoid going out and staying with others for example going to a friend’s house for a night out.

When they are separated from their caregivers they develop intense fear. They think something terrible will happen to their caregivers or themselves. The fear gets intense that they feel they will get kidnapped.  To avoid this situation they complain about physical symptoms such as stomach ache, fever etc. They become panicky, miserable, homesick, socially withdrawn and sad. They also demand constant attention and sometimes become so clingy that they will not allow one of their caregiver to go out of sight. People with separation anxiety disorder are also at greater risk of subsequently developing other anxiety disorder such as panic disorder.

SYMPTOMS

The symptoms of separation anxiety disorder include:

  1. Fear and worry that something will happen to their caregivers
  2. Children refuse to go to school
  3. Insomnia
  4. Complains about headache and stomachache
  5. Clinging to the caregiver
  6. Nightmares about separation
  7. Fear of being alone
  8. Bedwetting
  9. Temper tantrums

Children and adolescents should show at least three symptoms from the above mentioned symptoms. The symptoms should last for at least four weeks and cause significant distress.

CAUSES

It occurs because of the fear a child has in some ways. If we can know the actual cause we will be one step closer to help the child through their struggles. A strong genetic component was used as evidenced by analyses based on twin data. Important environmental factors such as low-income environment, new house or school can trigger symptoms. They can also develop it because of natural or manmade disasters such as losing a loved one in an attack or tsunami etc. An overprotective parent or insecure attachment can also be a problem because they manifest their own anxiety about separation on the kid. 

DIAGNOSIS

Separation Anxiety Disorder is diagnosed on the basis of the signs and symptoms shown by the person. It varies from age to age. Children in the range of 5 to 8 show more symptoms than the 9 to 12 age group. Young children report more nightmares. Adolescents are more likely to report physical symptoms. Parents and child symptoms differ from each other. Clinicians are more likely to diagnose children with the disorder when parents report their symptoms. There are no laboratory tests for this disorder but the clinicians can ask for a blood test. If no physical illness is found, the child is sent to a psychologist to diagnose and treat them.

TREATMENT

The majority of children diagnosed with the disorder are completely free of symptoms within 18 months. However, people those who need help get the proper treatment from the clinicians. Behavioural techniques such as Systematic Desensitization, Exposure Therapy and Modeling is used for treating fear and anxieties. Contingency management and self management are also useful in teaching child to react positively to their fear-provoking situations. The therapies can be given individually or in combination. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy seems to be the most promising. It helps to reshape the child’s thinking and behaviour. Other therapies include Talk Therapy and Family Counseling to help the child to fight from their fears of separation.  There are no specific medications but in severe cases, antidepressant or anti-anxiety pills can be given to the person. Parents can also help their children at home by making proper plans for them and replacing their anxiety provoking thoughts into positive thoughts and also by setting some limits. They should also allow the child to stay or go to some place alone and should give up on their insecurities regarding their children.

CONCLUSION

Most children with the disorder get better and healthy with time. They need family support and love and when this thing combines with the treatment the chances of recovery improves. There is no way of preventing it but acting and recognizing it at the right time is important. They should live at a better place and should adapt with the changes and should give away their fears and accept the challenges with a positive attitude.

Ishita Bansal
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