Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD)
Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is an experience of fear or anxiety caused by being separated from an attachment figure (parent, sibling, etc.).
This usually interferes with the child’s normal day-to-day activities.
What are common symptoms of SAD? Most young children experience some degree of separation anxiety, mostly fear of strangers. However, if symptoms are severe and last for more than one month, they could be attributed to SAD. You may notice the following in your child:
- Refusing to sleep alone
- Showing signs of severe distress when anticipating leaving the home or family
- Showing signs of extreme worry about the safety of a family member
- Showing signs of extreme worry about getting lost
- Refusing to attend school
- Fearing any time alone
- Fearing sleeping away from home
- Displaying panic or temper tantrums at times of separation from caregivers
What causes SAD?
- Biological factors – a chemical imbalance in the brain involving norepinephrine and serotonin
- Environmental factors – a traumatic experience
- Family – learned behavior from an anxious family member
What should you do if you suspect your child has separation anxiety disorder? Contact your pediatrician for a proper evaluation. If further assessment is needed, your pediatrician may recommend a comprehensive evaluation by a licensed behavioral health professional.