Category: Separation Anxiety Disorder

Treatment for Separation Anxiety Disorder

Have you ever noticed that your child refuses to go to school or to a party or play-date at another’s house, refuses to be alone without you, refuses to go to another part of the house without you or even refuses to sleep alone?  If this is the case, your child could be suffering and it is time to begin treatment for Separation Anxiety Disorder.  Separation Anxiety Disorder can be extremely disabling for children and painful for their parents to witness, however there is hope with treatment. The best form of treatment for Separation Anxiety Disorder in mild to moderate cases is psychotherapy or parent guidance.  There are many different forms of psychotherapy, but the most commonly used for this is known as Cognitive-Behavioral therapy.  However, an important thing to remember is that the sooner you treat the problem the less impact the problem will have down the line and the better the ultimate results in treatment for Separation Anxiety Disorder.

So what do you do if you think your child needs treatment for Separation Anxiety Disorder?  Go seek help from a professional with experience in the treatment for Separation Anxiety Disorder.  Unfortunately, this is not as easy as it seems.  The reason is there are a number of factors involved in the treatment for Separation Anxiety Disorder.

Often both the child and the parents need help.  The parents need help because they are torn between seeing their child suffer; yet feeling they need to “push” the child past it.  This parental dilemma can occur if parents recall their own possible childhood anxiety.  They want to empathize with the child and cannot give them the loving “push” the child needs.  This is where parent guidance plays a role in the treatment for Separation Anxiety Disorder.

Here at Proliance Center our team of professionals have a lot of experience with this and we are here to help.  Give us a call today.

Separation Anxiety Disorder

Does your child hover around you like a shadow? Does he or she refuse to let you go out without her? Does she get upset or refuse to go to school or a friend’s house without you? Your child may suffer from Separation Anxiety.

Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is the most common anxiety disorder among children and affects 2-3% of grade-school children. It involves excessive distress over day-to-day separation from parents, home or other familiar situations, and unrealistic fears of harm to loved ones. Seventy-five to eighty percent of the children who refuse to go to school have separation anxiety. Whereas normal separation fears are outgrown by age 5 or 6, SAD usually begins between the ages of 7 and 11. It often occurs fairly abruptly among children who previously had no problems with separation. Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is diagnosed only if fears persist, with very extreme reactions, beyond that expected for the age of the child. A ten-year-old who cries and clings to a parent, refuses to go to school, or is afraid to stay at a friend’s house may be showing signs of Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Children with Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) may beg for reassurance when a parent is away even briefly, cower from any opportunity to be separated, and sometimes even follow them from room to room. When questioned, they may disclose worries about parents or other family members getting hurt or killed, and may feel responsible for protecting them from harm.

Signs and symptoms of Separation Anxiety Disorder

  • Extreme, disproportionate distress over separation from loved ones
  • Unwillingness to leave home, attend school, or go on outings
  • Unrealistic worry about harm to self or loved ones
  • Frequent seeking of reassurance regarding safety of self and loved ones Crying, clinging, nausea, vomiting or tantrums in anticipation of separation
  • Reluctance to be alone, especially at night
  • Nightmares about harm and danger
  • Symptoms for at least four weeks

Indications of SAD in school

School refusal and tardiness are common indicators of Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD). Once in school, a child with Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) may be agitated, restless and nervous, and complain of stomachaches, headaches or nausea. The child may make frequent trips to the nurse’s office, and ask to call her parent or to go home. The child may not eat or drink in school, and may ask for repeated reassurance about safety. Phone calls to “check in” with parents may bring reprieve. Usually, the child experiences tremendous relief when the parent takes her home.

Helping your child overcome Separation Anxiety

  • Remain calm, matter of fact and firm during routine separations.
  • Don’t hover, question or reassure excessively.
  • Limit reassurance to one or two times.
  • Use the Parent-Teacher Log to communicate between home and school.
  • Limit check-in visits or phone calls when the child is in school.
  • Allow a transitional object for comfort until the child masters anxiety.
  • Limit the child’s ability to leave school and return home.
  • Remove the comforts of staying home or returning home from school.
  • Use the Feeling Thermometer as an index of intensity and change in emotions.
  • Teach calming self-talk when upset.
  • For the child who has been out of school, plan a gradual return to school.
  • Seek opportunities to separate from the child for increasing lengths of time.
  • Create opportunities for repetition and practice.
  • Encourage independent activities and self-reliance.
  • Reward independence and initiative.
  • Set a positive example; role model the behavior the child is expected to learn.
  • Make You And Me Alone (YAMA) time to increase positive interactions.
  • Praise any efforts in the direction of separation.
  • Use tangible rewards for any effort in the right direction.
  • Be consistent in the child management approach at home and at school.

If your child’s separation fears persist despite your interventions, seek consultation with a qualified mental health professional.

– Proliance Center would like to thank: Aureen Pinto Wagner, Ph.D. Copyright © 2002 for the use of the above material.

What Is the Treatment for Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD)?

Most mild cases of Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) do not need medical treatment.  However, in more severe cases of Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD), or when the child refuses to go to school, treatment may be needed.  There are three goals of treatment for Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD).  They include reducing anxiety in the child, developing a sense of security in the child and the caregivers, and educating the child and family/caregivers about the need for natural separations.  Treatment options for Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) that may be used include psychotherapy and/or medications.

Psychotherapy (a type of counseling) is the main treatment approach for Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD), where the goal is to help the child tolerate being separated from the caregiver without the separation causing distress or interfering with function. A type of therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy works to reshape the child’s thinking in Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD), so that the child’s behavior becomes more appropriate.  Family therapy also may help teach the family about Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) and help family members better support the child during periods of anxiety.

Medication: Antidepressant medications may be used to treat severe cases of Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD).

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