In all families where love is present, a certain level of separation anxiety is normal. Children always miss a loved parent or caregiver when they are absent, and parents should not be alarmed by it. However, when the level of anxiety is extreme – to the point of a panic attack – and a general inability to cope with normal routines in their life, then there may be the presence of an anxiety disorder called Separation Anxiety Disorder, or SAD. SAD should not be under estimated in terms of its ability to do damage to the psyche and, hence the normal development of their child.
It should be treated immediately by qualified professionals or it may result in a panic attack and a worsening condition. Most parents are aware of changes in their child’s behavior and are quick to notice developments that reflect an increase in anxiety about their absence. Many parents ask how they can tell if indeed their child is suffering with Separation Anxiety Disorder. This is a question which requires some detail and explanation.
There is good evidence to suggest the presence of SAD if several of the following characteristics are present in the child’s behavior and they were absent in the recent past. We are not dealing here with levels or degrees of anxiety symptoms as much as the type of symptoms themselves. It is common for children to cry and pout, even have minor tantrums at the news that Mom or Dad will be away for several days. 1.
Definite sleep problems, including the insomnia, nightmares and the like. 2. A refusal to leave home even to attend school. This may include an unwillingness to even play with close friends.
3. A tendency to stay closer physically than normal to the parent or caregiver. 4. Claims of sickness when the parent is about to leave.
5. Endless questions about when you will return. If your child has several of these examples of symptomatic reaction to the possibility that you are leaving, then they may be suffering from SAD. To prevent the condition from worsening or developing into an anxiety attack, take your child to their primary physician and begin there with a complete physical and follow it up with a detailed screening by a competent therapist.
l Most cases of SAD can be dealt with adequately because the environment and its impact as well as the target of the anxiety – the parent – are all easily included in the solution regimen. Most children respond well to a gentle but significant regimen of changes that are specifically designed to both reinforce your care and sensitivity but also to drive specific changes in the child’s reaction to your absence.