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Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is a psychological condition characterized by excessive fear or distress when an individual is separated from people or environments to which they are emotionally attached.

What is Separation Anxiety?

Separation Anxiety is a psychological condition characterized by excessive fear or distress when an individual is separated from people or environments to which they are emotionally attached. This often occurs in relationships, particularly with caregivers in early childhood, but can also manifest in adulthood. The anxiety arises from the fear of separation and the anticipation of potential harm or loss.

In children, separation anxiety is a natural part of development and typically emerges around 6 months to 2 years of age. It reflects the child’s growing awareness of their dependence on caregivers for safety and security. Common symptoms include distress when separated from caregivers, clinging behavior, nightmares, and physical complaints such as stomachaches or headaches.

In adults, separation anxiety can persist or even develop later in life. This may be triggered by significant life changes, such as the end of a relationship, relocation, or the loss of a loved one. Adults with separation anxiety may experience persistent worry about potential harm or disasters befalling themselves or their loved ones when apart. This can lead to avoidance of situations involving separation.

Treatment for Separation Anxiety

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) empowers you to identify and change the thoughts and behaviors contributing to Separation Anxiety. In a supportive and collaborative environment, our experienced therapists help you obtain freedom from Separation Anxiety.

Building Coping Strategies: Through CBT, we work together to build a toolkit of practical strategies. This includes recognizing triggers, challenging negative thoughts, and finding alternative behaviors.

Empowering Change: CBT isn’t just about managing symptoms – it’s about reclaiming control over your life. By fostering self-awareness and providing effective tools, we empower you to break free from the cycle of Separation Anxiety.


Medication can be a helpful adjunct to CBT therapy in the treatment of child anxiety disorders, particularly for children with severe symptoms or impairment in daily functioning.

At Light On Anxiety, our team of clinicians work closely with families to assess the need for medication and develop personalized treatment plans.

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed to reduce anxiety symptoms in children and adolescents.
  • Other medications, such as selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), may be used in certain cases.

Our approach to medication management prioritizes safety, efficacy, and collaboration with families to ensure the best possible outcomes for children with anxiety disorders.

Integrating CBT + Medication

Our approach involves a careful integration of CBT and medication, depending on patient preferences and clinical needs, to address both the biological and psychological aspects of Separation Anxiety.

  1. Collaborative Treatment Planning: Our experienced team works collaboratively to create an individualized treatment plan that assists you in meeting your treatment goals as effectively and rapidly as possible.  
  2. Patient Empowerment: We believe in empowering you with comprehensive information about Separation Anxiety treatment options, allowing you to make informed decisions about your treatment journey. 
  3. Monitoring Progress: Regular monitoring and adjustments to your treatment plan are made based on your response and progress. This ensures you are obtaining maximum benefits from the time and energy you are putting into the Separation Anxiety treatment process.  
  4. Ongoing Support:  We offer ongoing support and adjustments to your treatment plan as needed, ensuring a comprehensive and personalized approach to your path to healing.

Your Unique Path to Freedom From Separation Anxiety 

Our goal is to create a treatment plan that aligns with your needs and preferences, recognizing that each individual’s journey is unique.

What are the symptoms of Separation Anxiety?

Separation anxiety can manifest through a variety of symptoms, and these can vary across different age groups.

In Children:
Intense distress, crying, or tantrums when anticipating or experiencing separation from caregivers.

Persistent clinging to parents or caregivers, even in situations where it may be developmentally inappropriate.

A strong reluctance or refusal to be separated from a primary caregiver, especially in unfamiliar environments.
Complaints of stomachaches, headaches, or other physical symptoms when facing separation.
Increased occurrence of nightmares, particularly those involving themes of separation or danger when asleep.
In Adults:
Persistent and excessive worry about potential harm or disasters occurring to oneself or loved ones during separations.
Actively avoiding situations or activities that involve separation from significant others.
Physical manifestations of anxiety, such as restlessness, muscle tension, or gastrointestinal issues, especially when facing separation.
Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns related to separation anxiety.
Avoidance of social activities or situations that may lead to separation from others.

FAQs about Separation Anxiety

Yes, adults can experience separation anxiety. It may manifest as excessive worry or distress when separated from significant others and can be triggered by life changes, such as the end of a relationship or relocation.

Separation anxiety can be triggered by various factors, including major life changes, such as moving to a new location, the end of a relationship, or loss of a loved one. In children, developmental stages can contribute to separation anxiety as they become more aware of their dependence on caregivers. Additionally, past traumatic experiences or disruptions in attachment during childhood may also increase the likelihood of separation anxiety in adulthood.

Yes, there are typically stages of separation anxiety, and they are often observed in children. In infants, around 6-8 months old, there is a phase called “stranger anxiety,” where they become distressed when approached by unfamiliar people. Around 8-14 months, children may enter the “separation anxiety” stage, experiencing distress when separated from their primary caregiver. As children grow, these stages tend to lessen, and they develop more independence in managing separations.

Supporting someone with separation anxiety involves offering reassurance and understanding. Encourage open communication to express their feelings and concerns, and be patient as they work through their anxiety. Establishing predictable routines and gradually exposing them to brief separations can help build confidence. Encouraging professional help, such as therapy, can also provide valuable tools for managing separation anxiety.

More About Treatment for Anxiety

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Light On Anxiety CEO Dr Debra Kissen describes how CBT & ERP helps clients move past OCD and other anxiety disorders.

Learn more about how we can create a custom individual treatment plan to fit your goals.

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