Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder: Symptom, Cause and Treatment

Separation Anxiety Disorder is often noticed among children and young people. But in some cases, this fear of separation seems to persist and even arise in adulthood. So how to recognize the separation anxiety symptoms in adults and how to manage this disorder?

What Are the Symptoms of Separation Anxiety in Adults?

Separation anxiety is a psychological disorder characterized by an enormous fear of separation from people or places that have a big importance in someone’s life. Even though this condition is more common among children and young people, adults can develop this psychological problem as well. Children have the fear of separating from parents, while for adults, this could be his/her parents, partner or a close friend.

Characteristic signs and symptoms of separation anxiety in adults are:

  • Fear
  • Anxiety of getting separated from an important person or from home
  • Refusal to go to school or to go to work in cases of adult people due to fear and separation anxiety
  • Being afraid and worried when left alone without the attachment figure nearby
  • Constantly worrying about the well-being of the attachment figure, mostly without a real reason
  • Overwhelming stress and recurrence of these stress episodes when faced with separation from the attachment figure or attachment place
  • Constantly worrying that a certain event or occurrence in life will lead to a separation from the attachment figure or attachment place
  • Persistent nightmares regarding separation
  • Being unable to sleep without having the attachment figure nearby
  • Being dependent of the attachment figure
  • Body function disturbances
  • Sexual dysfunction

What Effects Does Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder (ASAD) Have on Everyday Life?

Separation anxiety in adults has a great impact on everyday life and especially on their relationship or marriage. For their partners, it is impossible and very difficult to be facing the fears and anxieties of the other person on daily basis. Reassuring the loved ones that they will not leave or separate from them does very little or no effect at all.

People dealing with ASAD will have difficulties being in a normal relationship with a partner as the other partner will feel like being constantly suffocated. In cases of marriage, it is quite likely that these marriages will end up in a divorce.

Refusing to go to work or even to leave the house presents a big problem as well. It has been estimated that unemployment and underemployment are also a big concern for people dealing with ASAD.

What Causes Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder?

There is still no single cause identified which contributes to the development of separation anxiety in adults. However, it is believed that a mix of certain factors leads to the development of this psychological disorder. Genetics, environmental factors, as well as, psychological factors seem to play an important role.

  • When it comes to genetics, researchers have found that about 73% of individuals diagnosed with adult separation anxiety disorder had a family history of mental health. This leads to the fact that separation anxiety disorder can be inherited, especially in cases of first-degree relatives.
  • Environmental factors also seem to play an important role in the development of this psychological disorder. Being separated from a partner, friend, parent or child for various reasons can definitely lead adult separation anxiety disorder. Life stressors that trigger such a disorder are an unexpected death of a loved person, being separated by force from a loved person, being in an unhealthy relationship, etc.
  • Physical factors also seem to play an important role in the development of this disorder. It has been estimated that adults dealing with separation anxiety have certain chemical imbalances in their brain. Specifically, neurotransmitters in charge of controlling and regulating the mood and impulses are not balanced, often leading to the onset of the symptoms. 

How Is Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder Treated?

As it is a recently recognized disorder for adults, no specific treatments have been designed yet. However, the adult separation anxiety is treated just like any other anxiety disorder with various medications and therapies. Recommended treatments for separation anxiety in adults are:

  • Antidepressant medications
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Group therapy

In general, a combination of more than one treatment is needed when getting the treatment for the disorder. The early the treatment begins the better the results will be.

You can do something by yourself to make a difference. If you find yourself constantly worrying from a separation from a loved person or a place, then you should try getting these thoughts out of your head. A good way is by grounding yourself and reminding who you are, what you are doing, that there is no need for you to worry about and that you will be just fine even without that loved person or even at a different place.

Distracting yourself when these strange thoughts possess you is a good way too. You can try reading a book, writing something, etc.

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