Doctors define separation anxiety as when a person is afraid of being separated from a particular person.

Separation anxiety is normally associated with children, and though not so common, adults can experience it as well.

Today’s topic will be on separation anxiety in adults.

An individual experiences anxiety when he or she is separated from another person, pet or even object.

Some adults are known to hang on to their ‘bantal busuk’ (literally translated means ‘stinky pillow”) for dear life, and get anxious when it is taken away to be washed. In fact, the writer knows of an individual who must pack in his bantal busuk if he goes on holiday, as he is unable to sleep without it!

Symptoms of separation anxiety in adults can show up in the following forms:

  • headache
  • sore throat
  • nausea

Doctors have noted that adults who suffer separation anxiety, have often suffered the same condition as a child. Some others may only experience it when they are adults.

Common symptoms of separation anxiety disorder in adults

Separation anxiety is basically one form of anxiety disorder. Another form of anxiety disorder is panic disorder. Another lesser known but common anxiety disorder is agoraphobia which is a fear of being in a situation where escape might seem to be difficult or a fear nobody would be around to help if things do go wrong.

As defined in the American Psychiatric Association’s mental health diagnostic manual, adult separation anxiety is when an adult displays a few of the following common symptoms:

  • strong fear of being left alone.
  • excessive worry about simple situations, e.g., being worried that leaving another person alone will result in him or her being harmed.
  • highly distressed when separated from a person, pet or object.
  • physical symptoms (headache, sore throat, nausea) that appear before separation.
  • constantly checking on the whereabouts of another person, pet or object.

These symptoms can last for up to 6 months or more, and the social distress caused by separation anxiety can affect academic, social or occupational functioning.

What causes adult separation anxiety?

With today’s fast-paced and stressful life, there are many reasons adults can get separation anxiety. The anxiety list is long and can stem from stressful situations like:

  • a parent, or child who moves out or away to another state.
  • a recent demise of a close family member or friend.
  • an underlying health condition, more so if it is a terminal disease.
  • unknown changes in a totally new environment.
  • stepping away from a regular group of friends and joining a new group of people.
  • childhood trauma, e.g., abuse
  • loss of a job / getting a new job

People with separation anxiety disorder have been misunderstood as being too controlling, overprotective or insecure. However, it should be noted their actions are simply a way of expressing their fears in relation to separation.

An article that was published in November 2015 in the Personality and Mental Health journal, called “Dependent personality, separation anxiety disorder and other anxiety disorders in OCD”, stated that adults with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) are more likely to suffer from separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety often comes in combination with other existing conditions like panic disorders or social phobias.

How is adult separation anxiety diagnosed?

The first line of contact should be a person’s family doctor who will run a general assessment of his or her mental condition, after which the family doctor will refer the person to a mental health expert for proper diagnosis.

Treatment options for adult separation anxiety

A mental health expert may suggest a few options to treat separation anxiety based on the individual’s condition, such as:

  • medication
  • CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy)
  • support groups / counselling

Therapy, counselling and medications can help adults reduce or control separation anxiety.

We hope today’s article on adult separation anxiety has been informative to our readers. The contents of this article should not be taken as medical advice, which should always be left to medical practitioners to dispense.

By Aaron
24th September 2020 20:30

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