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 most effective therapy is cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). With CBT, children are taught coping techniques for anxiety. Common techniques are deep breathing and relaxation. There are no specific medications for separation anxiety disorder. Antidepressants are sometimes used in older children with this condition. However, children must be monitored closely for side effects. Emotional and social development are both seriously affected by SAD. The condition can cause a child to avoid experiences crucial to normal development.