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.
In a French sample of patients with anorexia nervosa (AN) or bulimia nervosa (BN). We assessed frequencies of seven anxiety disorders and childhood histories of separation anxiety disorder among 63 subjects with a current DSM-IV diagnosis of an ED, using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI). Eighty-three percent of subjects with AN and 71% of those with BN had at least one lifetime diagnosis of an anxiety disorder. By far, the most frequent was social phobia (55% of the anorexics and 59% of the bulimics). When present, the co-morbid anxiety disorder had predated the onset of the ED in 75% of subjects with AN, and 88% of subjects with BN. Our results are consistent with those of studies conducted in other countries, and show that an anxiety disorder frequently exists before an ED. This has to be taken in consideration for successful treatment of patients with AN or BN.