Separation anxiety disorder is a mental health disorder that usually begins in childhood and is characterized by worrying that is out of proportion to the situation of temporarily leaving home or otherwise separating from loved ones. Approximately 4%-5% of children and adolescents suffer from separation anxiety disorder.
The symptoms of separation anxiety includes persistently and excessively fearful or reluctant to be alone or without major attachment figures at home or without significant adults in other settings, persistent reluctance or refusal to go to sleep without being near a near a major attachment figure or to sleep away from home, repeated nightmares involving the theme of separation, repeated complaints of physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomachaches, nausea, or vomiting) when separation from major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated, repeated nightmares about being separated from the people who are important to the sufferer.
Few studies to examine SAD based on DSM criteria in a community sample, we report a number of epidemiological findings that may be of interest to the field. For the total sample (N = 1,709), 3.9% met criteria for SAD before age 19; 76% of these had experienced another mental disorder. Among the latter, over 80% developed SAD before the other mental disorder. As indicated earlier, SAD has an early onset age of approximately 7 years and a duration of approximately 3 years. Most children's SAD symptoms remitted by late adolescence, as only 6% of the children with a SAD diagnosis before T1 still had SAD at the T2 assessment point.
Of the 42 participants with a SAD diagnosis by age 19 (i.e., during childhood), 32 (76%) had a comorbid diagnosis. Six (14.3%) had a phobic disorder, 3 (7.1%) had a comorbid diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder, 2 (4.8%) had a panic disorder, 2 (4.8%) had an obsessive-compulsive diagnosis, 22 (52.4%) had an affective disorder, 11 (26.2%) had a substance use disorder, 6 (14.3%) had an adjustment disorder, 4 (9.5%) had a disruptive disorder, and 1 (2.4%) had an eating disorder.