Separation Anxiety Disorder 2010

Separation Anxiety Disorder
By Soobin

Classification of Disorder 1

Anxiety Disorder
Disorder of Infancy, Childhood, and Adolescence

Definition & Description

"Children with this mental disorder, display excessive anxiety when away from home of from those to whom they are emotionally attached."

"-Duration of the disturbance is at least 4 weeks
-Onset is before age 18 yearsSeparation Anxiety Disorder
-Disorder causes distress
or impairment in social, academic (occupational), or other important areas of functioning"
-Cannot be diagnosed with Separation Anxiety Disorder if the person has Pervasive developmental Disorders, Schizophrenia, Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, or Conduct Disorder

List of Symptoms

"(1) recurrent excessive distress when separation from home or major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated

(2) persistent and excessive worry about losing, or about possible harm befalling, major attachment figures
(3) persistent and excessive worry that an untoward event will lead to separation from a major attachment figure (e.g., getting lost or being kidnapped)

(4) persistent reluctance or refusal to go to school or elsewhere because of fear of separation

(5) persistently and excessively fearful or reluctant to be alone or without major attachment figures at home or without significant adults in other settings

(6) persistent reluctance or refusal to go to sleep without being near a major attachment figure or to sleep away from home

(7) repeated nightmares involving the theme of separation

(8) repeated complaints of physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomachaches, nausea, or vomiting) when separation from major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated"


"-Environmental Change: change in daily routine, such as move, death, or illness of a close relative of pet (traumatic events)

-Genetic Influence: history of panic disorder, anxiety, or depression in one's parents

-Parent / Child Attachment: if one senses emotional distance, they feel the need to draw the parent in more closely

-Developmental Considerations: a slower rate of development
in the intellectual, social, emotional, or physical arena

-Cognitive Factors: repeatedly worry about what one is afraid of, emotions take over the mind

-Behavioral Factors: Crying and clinging behaviors are used to cope with the feelings of anxiety associated with certain people, environment, or situations

-Stress Factors & Influence: Change in routines, change in family structure (death, divorce, parent illness, birth of a sibling), change in caregivers, changes in parents' response to the child in terms of discipline, availability, or daily routine -> changes can cause discomfort and anxiety even though the changes may be positive"

Therapies & Treatments 2

"-Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: treatment approach designed to alter a person's thoughts, beliefs, and images as a way of changing behavior; help patient label fears and identify the irrational beliefs and assumptions underlying their fears; confront and correct false beliefs

-Imagery: use imagination to see oneself being successful in a stressful situation; use of positive mental pictures

-Modeling: use of observational learning and imitation; parents and teachers can display appropriate behavior at home and school

-Systematic Desensitization: behavior modification
technique in which a patient is gradually exposed to an anxiety-provoking or fearful object or situation while learning to be relaxed 9

-Positive Role Models:
Reading books about other children successfully separating from their caregiver; watching friends calmly separate from their caregivers

-Behavior Modification:
use a system of rewards and reinforcements to change behavior

carrying mall items that remind the patient of their bond with their parents

-Distraction & Altruism:
focus on things outside the patient's self; occupy oneself with a "fun" responsibility

-Medication Management: involves prescribing anti-anxiety or anti-depressive drugs; influence neurotransmitters in the brain to regulate emotional response"

Case Study

"The Story of 7-year-old Allison: Allison is a 7-year-old girl who lives with her parents and two older siblings. Allison has missed numerous days of school since starting kindergarten, and lately has become even more upset about going to school. Once a week, Allison has temper tantrums and screams for her mom to allow her to stay home. Other days, she makes her mom stay in the school hallway for at least an hour before Allison 'allows' her to leave. Mom must be exactly on time picking her up at the end of school; otherwise, Allison threatens not to go to school the next day. Allison also insists that her mom be present when she goes to birthday parties or school field trips, and she wants her mom to be in sight at all times if they go to the park. Allison has nightmares about monsters coming 'to get her and take her away'. She also worries about her parents being harmed in an accident or being beaten up by burglars."
"The Story of 13-year-old James: James is a 13-year-old boy with separation anxiety. He refuses to be out of sight of his parents when he is at home. When James was younger, he used to come into his parents' bedroom in the middle of the night to sleep with them. Although they allowed it for several years, in the past year his parents have begun insisting that he sleep in his own room all night. Lately, James complains of stomach aches and 'not feeling well,' and pleads to sleep with them, often throwing tantrums. James prefers to do things with his parents than with his friends. He refuses sleepover invitations, and is very anxious about the end-of-year camping trip, which includes two nights sleeping away from home."
Related Disorders

1) Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
2) Bipolar Disorder
3) Panic Disorder

4) Dependent Personality Disorder
5) Somatic or Sexual Dysfunction
6) Depression





Related Links



WAPA Citation

1) BehaveNet (2010). Separation Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved March 18, 2010, from
2) Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders (2010). Separation anxiety disorder. Retrieved March 18, 2010, from
3) Anxiety BC (2010). Separation Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved March 18, 2010, from
4) PsychNet-UK (2003). Separation Anxiety Disorder. Retrieved March 18, 2010, from
8) Separation Anxiety Disorder. (n.d.). Health & Fitness. Retrieved March 18, 2010, from
9) Teixeira, G. (n.d.). Separation anxiety disorder. Disorders at School. Retrieved March 18, 2010, from

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