Best Ways to Handle Separation Anxiety Disorder in Adults & Children
Can you track back to the times when you were little and your parents first went to drop you off at school or left you at your grandparent’s home? It used to make us feel anxious because we didn’t want to be separated from our parents or primary caregivers. Well, more than 50% of the kids experience this anxiety.
Similarly when we grow up and when a close one has to leave our side to progress in their life we often feel anxious for a while. So, basically, whether we are kids or adults, saying goodbyes never comes easy!
But, while for some of us this fearful and anxious feeling fades ways after a few days or a couple of weeks, for others this feeling persists and takes a form of mental health condition referred to as separation anxiety disorder. Which if not handled might start interfering in the daily life functioning of the child or the adult.
To begin with, we will understand what separation anxiety disorder is, followed by its signs, and finally learning effective ways to deal with it. So, let us begin with our completion separation anxiety guide.
What is Separation Anxiety Disorder?
As mentioned above we all at some point have felt separation anxiety. But, when it comes to separation anxiety disorder it tends to differ in terms of intensity. In separation anxiety disorder the individual (kid or adult) has prolonged anxiety of separation that starts to interfere in daily functioning causing significant problems.
Some useful facts on separation anxiety disorder:
- Separation anxiety is a normal part of child development.
- Typically, it starts at eight months of age and most children outgrow it by about 3 years of age.
- If the signs are high in intensity then it may take a form of separation anxiety disorder.
- Not only babies and children but adults too can be diagnosed with a separation anxiety disorder.
- If the signs are handled well at the beginning separation anxiety may not take a form of the disorder.
- Childhood separation or traumatic experience may manifest itself in separation anxiety in adults
- Women are more likely to be diagnosed with separation anxiety
Signs Of Separation Anxiety Disorder In Children
Some of the key symptoms of separation anxiety disorder in children are:
- A constant fear that something terrible might happen to the loved ones (especially, parents).
- Unreasonable fear of going to school.
- Reluctance to go to sleep because of fear of being alone or separated.
- Increased clinginess to primary caregivers.
- Frequent complaints of feeling ill and physical sickness like stomach or headache.
- The constant worry of an unpredicted event to take place and lead to permanent separation with the loved one.
- Reporting nightmares about separation.
- A constant urge to be in the proximity of loved ones and not leaving it
- All these signs have now persisted for more than four weeks.
Signs Of Separation Anxiety Disorder In Adults
DSM-5 has given a separate list of symptoms of separation anxiety disorder in adults. This includes:
- Unexplainable distress about being separated from a person or pet.
- Heightened fear of being alone.
- Constant worry about the other person being harmed if left alone.
- An urge to be well informed where the partner is (all the times).
- Excessive worry about being alone or not being there with the other person.
- Difficulty sleeping away from the loved one because of the constant fear of them being harmed in any way.
- Persistent hesitancy or complete refusal to leave the proximity of the loved ones.
- Being overly concerned about them.
- The worry starts to interfere in their normal life functioning.
- Some or all of these signs persist for more than six months.
How To Deal With Separation Anxiety?
These signs might start taking a toll on the daily functioning of the person towards whom it is directed. Therefore, it becomes important to learn ways of dealing with separation anxiety. Because the signs, causes, and age of experiencing separation anxiety differ so do the ways to deal with them.
While implicating these ways make sure you are gentle with them and yourself. Also, remember that their behavior and worries are outward of their mental health condition and they don’t define them.
11 Ways To Deal With Separation Anxiety In Children
1. Have Quick Good-bye Rituals
Setting rituals will help your kid understand that this is the sign or point where you will be leaving them, where separation will take place. But, only setting a ritual won’t help much until and unless it is not a quick and effective one. Be sweet and say a quick good-bye with kisses and care. Just remember, the more the transition time the higher the chances of the child feeling anxious.
2. Keep Your Promises
If you have promised your child to be back in the next one hour, adhere to it! By doing so you are building a sense of trust, confidence, and independence in your child. Tell them openly and clearly when you are leaving and when will you be back. This provides them a big relief. If you choose to sneak out, the anxiety experienced by your child may worsen. So, be open to your child and keep up with your words.
3. Be Consistent
As mentioned above rituals are very important in dealing with separation anxiety in kids. Setting a routine and sticking by it will help them feel secure, safe, and will make them more disciplined. Consistency can be implemented in their school time, mealtimes, bedtimes, and playtimes. Don’t forget to communicate over the changes in schedule beforehand with your child.
4. Practice Being Apart
Starting slow is again a good option to help your child with separation anxiety. Allow people you trust like their grandparents, close family, and friends to provide child care even if it’s for 10-15 minutes, to begin with. This will give them an opportunity to build trust in others and prepare them to thrive in your absence.
5. Have Soothing Bedtime Routine
There are various in which you can soothe your child’s anxiety before putting him to sleep. You can see a bedtime routine by accommodating soothing activities in it like bath time, reading books, doing prayers, or simple goodnight hugs and cuddles. This will ease their anxiety, prepare them for separation, and subside their nightmares.
6. Indulge in Anti-Anxiety Activities
Just like we adults can practice different activities to ease our anxiety, you can try with your kid some of these activities, Like practicing yoga, deep breathing, and exercises. You may also create a little anti-anxiety kit for them. This kit can have his favorite toys, games, color books, action figures, candies, and chocolates that can help them with their anxiety.
You know that your child is having separation issues and so does your child then why not take a moment and communicate over it. It will make it easier for you to understand their concern and will reassure them that you are never going to leave them. Be gentle, calm, and empathetic while communicating with your child. Also, don’t be hesitant to tell them that they have been doing well with the last separations.
8. Encourage Them For Being Active
If they choose to step out of the house and be involved in different activities encourage them. This will help them build healthy social relationships, ease their anxiety, and channelize their physical energy in a healthy direction.
9. Offer Choices
Generally, there is an inanimate object that your child finds comfort with or helps them release their object. It can be their favorite toy or a handwritten letter from you. If you are not there with them you can give them choices that will help them feel safe, secure, and comfortable.
10. Reward Their Efforts
Did they go to school without showing any signs of separation anxiety like crying or refusal? Reward them with their favorite ice cream, toy, or maybe a nice hug. Rewarding their efforts will make them understand that their behavior was appropriate and did the right thing. This will further increase the likelihood of this behavior to reoccur.
11. Be Honest
As said earlier sneaking out or hiding the major information from your child may increase their anxiety and other signs. So, be honest with your child. Don’t surprise them by leaving them at their grandparent’s house all of sudden just because you need a break or have some other priorities! NO! Be honest and communicate with them beforehand. This will help them be prepared.
PS: Take care of yourself and remain stress-free. Your emotions, thoughts, and behaviors will be channelized to them. If you are being stressful then it might increase the intensity of their separation anxiety. So, taking care of yourself is also important.
6 Ways To Deal With Separation Anxiety In Adults
1. Practice Calm Breathing Exercises
Every time there is a transition phase and you start to feel overwhelmed just switch your attention to your breath. Shallow breathing can actually end up making you feel even more anxious, so just take a pause and practice deep breathing to ease your anxiety.
2. Try Muscle Relaxation Techniques
Separation anxiety does have a physical manifestation in the form of muscle stiffness or multiple aches. To work on these physical aspects you can either join muscle relaxation classes or practice the same at home. It will only provide you with physical signs but also ease your anxiety.
3. Give & Value Space
Give the other person some space with your own understanding. Basically, practice separation in your life. You both can plan on spending a few hours of the day apart but make sure you are not all alone for the first few trials of it. You may visit your parents, friends, or someone trustworthy at the beginning. Then slowly extend the time being spent alone on your own. This will help you ease out your anxiety and help your partner find some space, ensuring a healthy relationship.
5. Join Support Groups
Support groups will help you find additional social support and make you understand that others are also going through the same. You can learn from their lessons and be motivated for the same. Along with this, they will work as a solid channel of constant assistance.
6. Seek Help
If your separation anxiety persists and starts to interfere in your daily functioning we would recommend you seek help from a professional. There are many therapies available that can help you with the same.
We understand it can be overwhelming while dealing with separation anxiety so don’t forget to take care of your physical and emotional health.
More power and strength to you…
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