Children and adolescents with separation anxiety disorder may experience age-inappropriate, recurrent, excessive distress when separating from their parent or caregiver or when away from home. When separated from caregivers, children may feel a need to know their caregivers’ whereabouts or need to stay in touch with them (e.g. by phone calls). Some become extremely homesick and uncomfortable when away from home. They may yearn to return home and be preoccupied with reuniting with caregivers.
Children and adolescents with separation anxiety may fear being lost and never being reunited with their caregivers or that harm will come to themselves or caregivers. They are often uncomfortable when away from home and may avoid going places when a parent cannot accompany them. As a result, they may be reluctant or refuse to attend school or camp, to participate in sports and activities, to play or sleep at friends’ houses or to go to birthday parties. At home, they may be unwilling to be in a room by themselves and may appear clingy, staying close to parents around the house. Separation anxiety may also affect a child’s ability to fall asleep independently. They may insist someone stay with them until they fall asleep or throughout the night. Physical complaints, such as stomachaches, headaches, nausea and vomiting are common when separation occurs or is anticipated.
Treatment of Separation Anxiety:
At AATC, treatment for clients with separation anxiety is individualized. Our approach is likely to include cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), the scientifically-supported treatment for separation anxiety. CBT teaches a child new skills to reduce anxiety when separating from a parent or caregiver. Children and adolescents are educated about anxiety and learn how to identify unhelpful ways of thinking that are causing their separation fears. They are taught cognitive and behavioral strategies to replace anxious thoughts with more helpful, accurate and rational ways of thinking. Coping tools to manage feelings of anxiety and associated physical symptoms are also part of treatment. Through gradual exposure the child or adolescent gradually engages in activities, which he or she may have avoided because of his/her separation fears. With exposure, the child learns to overcome his or her fear.
There is also a supportive component to therapy that allows the child to discuss life stressors and concerns. Parents are educated on the tools their child is learning so they can support a child’s progress outside of treatment. With parent permission, our therapists will work with your child’s school, pediatrician, psychiatrist and other community providers as needed.
Our focus is on treating the “whole child,” so issues other than anxiety may also be addressed in treatment.
For more information regarding treatment for children and adolescents, or to schedule an initial evaluation for your child, please contact Dr. Lori Kasmen at (610) 667-6490 ext 21 or email@example.com
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