As infants develop healthy attachment to their caregivers, they begin to demonstrate separation anxiety–typically, fussing and crying–when separated from parents. Separation anxiety typically begins when the infant is between 8 and 12 months, intensifies between 10 and 18 months, and decreases by the time the child is around two years old. Sometimes, symptoms of separation anxiety linger and/or worsen as the child becomes school-aged. If a child’s separation anxiety is intense or long-lasting, interferes with school attendance or other daily activities, or is accompanied by other emotional or behavioral problems (tantrums, etc.), the child may have separation anxiety disorder.
Symptoms of separation anxiety disorder include extreme distress when separated from parents, refusal to be separated from parents, nightmares about separation, somatic symptoms in anticipation of separation (e.g., stomachaches) and frequent worries about permanent separation (e.g., a parent’s death, being kidnapped).
If your child is experiencing persistent symptoms of separation anxiety disorder, they may need treatment to improve their ability to tolerate separations.
Separation anxiety-oriented services at BCSC: