Identifying Separation Anxiety Disorder in Children
Some children experience separation anxiety continuously despite the parents’ best efforts to quell their fears. They might even carry their anxiety for many years and it could intensify into a serious problem. Normal anxiety and separation anxiety disorder have similar symptoms and is hard to differentiate between the two. In both cases, the child realizes the parents are leaving the place and they will be left alone.
The main difference between the two may be the intensity of the child’s fears and whether these fears will affect the child’s normal lifestyle. Children with separation anxiety disorder may become agitated and frustrated at the thought of their parents leaving. Children may even go to the extent of feigning illness or concocting some imaginary reasons to be able to stay with the parents. The main concern of the child is being separated from the parents, regardless of whether the parents are leaving or the child is going somewhere. The child feels concern and worry if they are not together with the parents. Parents enjoy having a child that wants to always stay with them but they should be cautious and observe whether the child simply enjoys being with the parents or if these are signs of a separation anxiety disorder. Talk to your child often and try to understand their thoughts. Here are some symptoms that may indicate the existence of a separation anxiety disorder.
The child may feel worried and fear that something bad will happen to the parents. They might feel that the parent may become seriously sick or hurt. On the other hand, they might feel confused and worried that something bad will happen to them instead. They fear that they might get lost, kidnapped or suffer a terrible injury. Children with separation anxiety disorders constantly think of these situations and even go to the extent of dreaming about them, resulting in scary dreams and nightmares. They might take some drastic actions to alleviate their worries, such as refusing to go to school, refusing to sleep alone, or complaining of some sickness. Take note that regardless of reasons, the main effect is that the parent has to stay with the child. The child tries all ways and means to stay with the parent, or at least cling to the caregiver or nanny.
At home, the child will always be with a parent or caregiver. They will play in areas where the parent is or can be observed constantly. The parent might not give much thought to the child’s concerns as the parent also wants to be assured of the child’s safety and will welcome the fact that they can see the child at all times. They should however wonder why the child constantly looks for them. The child may refuse to play with their friends or participate in outings activities without the parents. They might even refuse to go to school or allow the parents to go to work. They have difficulty sleeping when they are alone. They will end up sneaking into the parents’ bed and quietly sleep beside the parents. Parents might think of this as a cute gesture but they should try and seek the reasons of why the child wants their company at night.