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.
The adult form of separation anxiety disorder (ASAD) has only recently been described in the psychiatric literature. The National Comorbidity Study Replication was the first large-scale epidemiological study to include the diagnosis, revealing a lifetime prevalence of 6.6%. Apart from minor symptom differences associated with maturation, the adult pattern appears to parallel the established category of childhood separation anxiety disorder (CSAD). Affected adults experience intense fears that harm will befall close attachment figures, engaging in a range of strategies to maintain close contact with them.