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How does separation anxiety disorder affect a child?

Separation Anxiety is a normal emotion in children aged 8 to 24 months. It resolves as children develop sense of abject permanence and realize their parent will return. Some children will continue to present this symptom long past this time, or the anxiety may resolve and come back and may be severe enough to be considered a disorder.

Separation Anxiety Disorder is a persistent intense and developmentally inappropriate fear of separation from a major attachment figure such as mother. Children who are affected by this disorder will desperately try to avoid separations. They often have exaggerated fear that the attachment figure has been harmed and may never come back to them, they may refuse to sleep, eat and will cry a lot. Children with this disorder will desperately try to avoid separation by wailing and pleading with such desperation that mother is unable to leave the child. Behavior therapy is the treatment of choice, but SSRI can be used in severe cases.

Many infants and toddlers cry when their parents leave for work or go out for the evening, but children with separation anxiety disorder fear that their parents will be harmed if they go out. They also have nightmares about separation and become extremely agitated at the thought of being away from home. Stimulant medications used to treat attention deficit disorder can provoke these symptoms. Although children may eventually "outgrow" separation anxiety disorder, they have a greater risk of developing a significant anxiety disorder as teenagers and adults.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.