What Is Separation Anxiety In Relationships
What do you understand about separation anxiety in relationships?
However, adults have become increasingly diagnosed with an adult separation anxiety disorder in more recent times. Relationship separation anxiety or separation anxiety in relationships is much the same as the disorder faced by children.
However, these attachment figures typically include:
Hence, we can use the terms like boyfriend separation anxiety or marriage separation anxiety for separation anxiety witnessed in adults.
On the other hand, children who experience separation anxiety during their juvenile years very often go on to live their adult lives anxiety-free.
Conversely, children who do not experience still can develop separation anxiety in a relationship during their adult years.
Understand Differences In How Anxiety Manifests
Because of evolution, were wired to respond to fear by either fight, flight, or freeze. For different people, one of these responses will typically dominate. For instance, my spouse tends to freeze and will bury her head in the sand rather than deal with things that make her feel stressed and panicky. I tend more toward fighting, and will become irritable, excessively perfectionistic, or dogmatic if I feel stressed.
When you understand that anxiety is designed to put us into a mode of threat sensitivity, its easier to understand someone who is feeling scared and acting out by being irritable or defensive, and to find compassion for them. By paying attention to how anxiety manifests in the person you care about, you can learn their patterns and be in a better position to help.
Signs Of Separation Anxiety In Dogs
Dogs suffering from separation anxiety might learn their persons predeparture cueslike putting on a certain uniform, making lunch or organizing a briefcaseand begin to exhibit stress responses before their person even leaves.
Once the dog is alone, they might exhibit any or all of the following hallmarks of separation anxiety:
Pacing: Dogs that are panicked by their persons departure might be unable to settle down and might resort to walking back and forth repeatedly.
Vocalization: Barking and howling are common canine responses to isolation, but dogs with separation anxiety might continue vocalizing the entire time theyre alone.
Loss of appetite: Separation anxiety can cause even the most food-motivated dog to ignore treats and bones.
Destruction: Many dogs suffering from separation anxiety destroy small household itemslike the remote control or pillowsor resort to large-scale destruction, like tearing through furniture, walls, doors or windows.
Elimination: Dogs that are house-trained might have accidents while alone, including diarrhea.
Drooling: Some stressed dogs drool excessively and wind up with a soaked chin and chest.
Escape: Dogs with severe separation anxiety might be able to escape confinement, which can result in injuries.
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Symptoms Of Separation Anxiety
Are you experiencing any of these separation anxiety symptoms?
If youre someone who often struggles with any of these signs of separation anxiety, you have to be vigilant.
This kind of behavior can easily become overbearing for the ones who are on the receiving end.
In fact, it can become overwhelming for the sufferer as well. Its not uncommon to notice such feelings taking over your life.
Soon these symptoms creep up on you to start interfering with your work life and daily activities.
Thats also the moment when you need to evaluate if youre on the verge of a serious .
So, Is separation anxiety a mental illness?
Here, its important to understand the difference between separation anxiety and separation anxiety disorder. Not all cases are severe actually.
Medical diagnosis requires an individual to have symptoms for more than six months.
Plus, the symptoms have to be excessive as per the developmental age.
Enough Already What Can I Do
Lets face it: these tools are just as much about helping you as they are about helping your child. It hurts to see them sad, and nothing makes you feel worse as a parent than walking away from your baby when he or she is in tears. You instinct is to fix quickly and comfort. However, if you focus on a plan to help them get stronger and more resilient, as opposed to fixing their fear, youll both feel better in the long run.
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How Separation Anxiety Manifests In Adults
- Extreme Jealousy – adults with separation anxiety may demonstrate signs of jealousy in relationships. A fear of abandonment is often what drives those with ASA to experience jealousy. This is especially true if the jealousy is accompanied by anxious thoughts, such as a fear of being alone or irrational concerns about infidelity. Of course, jealousy may be completely unrelated to ASA – for example, control of others is the cause of jealousy, as are trust issues – but some forms of deep jealousy may also be due to separation anxiety.
- Over Strict Parenting – there is some evidence that extremely strict and demanding parents may have separation anxiety issues as well. Sometimes referred to as reverse-separation anxiety, the parents may be so concerned that their child will leave them someday that they try to control the child’s life as much as possible.
- Stuck in Relationships – another way separation anxiety may manifest itself is in the way adults treat their relationships. Whether romantic, familial, or friend relationships, but also friendships and occasionally familial relationships, many with ASA work to maintain the relationship even when extremely unhealthy , out of fear of being alone.
- Mooching – those that “mooch” off their parents well into adulthood, or those that never seem to leave their friends’ homes may be experiencing separation anxiety in some way.
What Is Separation Anxiety Disorder
The main differences between normal separation anxiety and separation anxiety disorder are the intensity of your childs fears, and whether these fears keep them from normal activities. Children with separation anxiety disorder may become agitated at just the thought of being away from mom or dad, and may complain of sickness to avoid playing with friends or attending school. When symptoms are extreme enough, these anxieties can add up to a disorder. But no matter how fretful your child becomes when parted from you, separation anxiety disorder is treatable. There are plenty of things you can do to make your child feel safer and ease the anxiety of separation.
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Practice Goodbyes To Help Manage Separation Anxiety
At first glance, this might seem like vague and potentially unhelpful advice. How are you supposed to practice goodbyes on Earth, and how will that do anything to improve your situation? The trick is acclimating yourself to saying goodbye and spending time alone.
People dealing with separation anxiety tend to run from situations where they have to say goodbye at all costs. Rather than having a healthy separation, they prefer not to say goodbye at all. They prefer clinging to the people around them at all costs. Rather than being alone, they will do everything in their power to keep the people they love around them at all times. Or, if they inevitably have to be alone, they will not face the situation. Instead of saying goodbye, they will hide and avoid dealing with the reality of the problem. Thus, the separation will occur in an unhealthy way which will only stress them out more.
Manage Separation Anxiety By Getting Busy
The best way to deal with the stress associated with separation is to keep your mind occupied. When youre struggling with anxiety, your mind is working on overdrive. It constantly creates worst-case scenarios that can have you spiraling and drowning in stress.
If your mind is sabotaging you, the worst thing you could do is letting your thoughts flow freely. So theres no reason to do nothing and allow your brain to overthink everything. What you should do instead is keeping yourself busy.
When separated from someone, dont just sit around. Even though it might be hard at first, try being productive. Dont just passively watch TV. Instead, do something active that challenges your brain. Play a hobby that requires mental dedication, like chess. Those kinds of activities will occupy your mind, disallowing you to overthink and panic. Try doing some work. Maybe go through e-mails, do some paperwork, think about potential strategies for finishing a task. Whatever you can do that will require all your attention, do it. The less time you have to overthink, the fewer scenarios you will create, and the less you will worry.
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How Is Separation Anxiety In A Long
When one partner is traveling too far away results in a strain on even the healthiest relationship. The worry and fear may start days before the actual separation and it can continue long after the partner has returned.
The anxiety in a long-distance relationship could be greater than the usual scenarios because the person is unaware of the future. There could be apprehensions, such as their partner might not return, they might find another love interest, their affection could change, or the distance could never be bridged.
- Detached behavior to protect oneself
When To Seek Professional Help
Your own patience and know-how can go a long way toward helping your child with separation anxiety disorder. But some kids with separation anxiety disorder may need professional intervention. To decide if you need to seek help for your child, look for red flags, or extreme symptoms that go beyond milder warning signs. These include:
- Age-inappropriate clinginess or tantrums.
Get more help
Practical coping suggestions for parents.
School Refusal Describes the symptoms and what parents can do about the problem.
Hotlines and support
In the U.S., call the National Parent Helpline at 1-855-427-2736 or the NAMI Helpline at 1-800-950-6264 .
In the UK, call the Family Lives Helpline at 0808 800 2222 or Anxiety UK at 03444 775 774.
In Australia, call the Parentline at 1300 30 1300 or the SANE Help Centre at 1800 18 7263.
In Canada, call the Parent Helpline at 1-888-603-9100 or visit Anxiety Canada for links to services in different provinces.
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Is Separation Anxiety Always A Bad Thing
Im someone who has always felt sad about separation, which is probably why Ive always been particularly interested in the topic. As a young girl, I got homesick if I spent the night with my best friend. And sleep-away camp well, when my parents downsized years ago, my mom sent me a bunch of letters I had written to her over the years. Among them were letters I had written from camp, with little circles all over the page and the note, these circles are where my tears have fallen while Im writing to you.
For much of my life, I felt ashamed of this tendency to hurt over separation. Cultural and family beliefs suggested that I should be self-sufficient and independent, and not need other people to make me feel good or comfortable. My early days of training to be a psychotherapist reinforced this idea as I learned about separation-individuationthat is, the capacity to be an independent person separate from parents and family and other supports.
But these days we recognize that the capacity for attachment is as important as the ability to separate. We also understand that individuation itself occurs best in the context of attachment, what some theorists have called attachment-individuation.
Easing Separation Anxiety Disorder: Tips For School
For children with separation anxiety disorder, attending school can seem overwhelming and a refusal to go is commonplace. But by addressing any root causes for your childs avoidance of school and by making changes at school, though, you can help reduce your childs symptoms.
Help a child who has been absent from school return as quickly as possible. Even if a shorter school day is necessary initially, childrens symptoms are more likely to decrease when they discover that they can survive the separation.
Ask the school to accommodate your childs late arrival. If the school can be lenient about late arrival at first, it can give you and your child a little wiggle room to talk and separate at your childs slower pace.
Identify a safe place. Find a place at school where your child can go to reduce anxiety during stressful periods. Develop guidelines for appropriate use of the safe place.
Allow your child contact with home. At times of stress at school, a brief phone calla minute or twowith family may reduce separation anxiety.
Send notes for your child to read. You can place a note for your child in their lunch box or locker. A quick I love you! on a napkin can reassure a child.
Provide assistance to your child during interactions with peers. An adults help, whether it is from a teacher or counselor, may be beneficial for both your child and the other children theyre interacting with.
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How Is Separation Anxiety Disorder Treated
Treatment for separation anxiety disorder usually involvescognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. This is a treatment that helps children learn to understand and manage their fears. Exposure therapy, a specialized form of CBT, might also be used. Exposure therapy works by carefully exposing children to separation in small doses. This can help them feel less anxious over time.
When therapy is not enough, a child may be given medicine to lessen their symptoms and help make therapy more effective. The most common drug to treat separation anxiety disorder is an antidepressant medication called an SSRI. Occasionally anti-anxiety medications are used but they can be habit-forming.
Know That The Separation Is Temporary
Even as you feel anxiety due to separation from your partner, it is important to acknowledge that the separation is only temporary. While your anxiety may make you want to believe that you are forever separated from them, convince yourself logically that it is not true.
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How Does Separation Anxiety Disorder Effect Adults
Signs & Symptoms
- What if something bad happens to my parents/spouse?
- What if I get lost or something bad happens to me?
- What if my spouse forgets to pick me up after work?
- What if I get attacked or mugged?
- What if I my boss asks me to stay late or to go away to that conference?
- Reluctance to apply for a job, or to seek a promotion
- Avoidance of participation in new activities or going places without a loved one
- Refusal to spend time alone
Focus On Other Important Relationships In Your Life
Apart from your romantic relationships, there are various other relationships in your life that hold importance. When you suffer from separation anxiety in relationships, you should focus on the other meaningful relationships that of siblings, friends, family, and others.
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How Long Does It Last
How long separation anxiety lasts can vary, depending on the child and how a parent responds. In some cases, depending on a child’s temperament, separation anxiety can last from infancy through the elementary school years.
Separation anxiety that affects an older child’s normal activities can be a sign of a deeper anxiety disorder. If separation anxiety appears out of the blue in an older child, there might be another problem, like bullying or abuse.
Additional Tips For Older Children
Although separation anxiety is more common in elementary-aged children, teens can experience it too. Here are some additional tips to help your adolescent child:
- Acknowledge their fears. Let them know youre there for them and that uneasy feelings are natural parts of adolescence.
- Praise them for doing something they are anxious about.
- Gently encourage, dont force, them to do things that make them anxious.
- Wait until your child is anxious before stepping in to help.
- Remind your child of times when they were initially afraid but still managed to do something.
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Talk Openly About Your Childs Worries
Sometimes we just want to avoid talking about all these worries kids have, or bad experiences that may have led to them.
We dont want to bring them up and make kids feel worse.
But the opposite is actually true the more your child is able to openly talk about their fears, the harder talking about them actually is.
Getting comfortable talking about your fears can help you over come them. Dont shy away from discussing their separation anxiety with them.
If you can, share a story with your child about when you also felt the way they did. This helps them know they arent alone.
When Separation Anxiety Continues And Worsens
However, if you notice your childs anxiety starts affecting their daily life and academics, talk to their doctor. Things like stomach aches, vomiting, headaches, constant worry about losing you or a loved one to a disease or illness or a reluctance to sleep away from you may be a sign of a more serious emotional problem called separation anxiety disorder , Dr. Fox said. The main difference between the two is that with SAD their fears keep them from normal activities.
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