Contrary to popular belief, separation anxiety isn’t an issue reserved just for babies and young children who are getting dropped off at daycare. It’s actually a complex mental health condition that’s related to generalized anxiety. That’s good news too. It means there are effective treatments available and easy coping mechanisms to use in the meantime.
What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety (SA) is a relatively mysterious mental health condition that typically affects young children and/or animals. It happens when there’s an unwanted distance between a person and their primary caretaker. However, it’s possible for an adult to feel the effects of this condition as well. That’s especially true for folks who have pre-existing mental or physical health conditions or live in stressful environments.
According to the psychological experts at Mind Diagnostics, SA symptoms can range from mild to severe depending on the person experiencing them. Social, cultural, and relational factors may also play a role in the development of symptoms. This mental state is more common than most people think, even and especially among otherwise well-adjusted adults who handle stress well.
People with adult separation anxiety disorder experience a wide range of different symptoms, some of which are extremely toxic and/or disturbing to their life. They may start to complain of new side effects over time too, most notably when the initial symptoms aren’t addressed properly. So, if you or someone you love is struggling with SA, seek professional help immediately.
What are the most common symptoms of separation anxiety?
Someone who is overly clingy may get accused of having anxiety about separation, but the actual disorder goes much deeper than that. It’s often rooted in the fear of abandonment and perpetuated by perceived signs of trouble. People with this condition may even become socially withdrawn despite their apparent need for interaction and connection. Over time, it may result in complete isolation or worse.
People with SA disorder may also exhibit the following behaviors:
#1. Heightened Spatial Awareness
All types of anxiety have the potential to make the sufferer more cognizant of their surroundings, sometimes to their own detriment. Unable to fully relax or enjoy the moment, someone with this disorder may fixate on the distance or remain anxious until they’re reunited. That, in turn, can make meeting new people and trying new things extremely difficult at times.
#2. Frequent Panic Attacks
Not being able to control your emotions or being overwhelmed by worry and concern can easily lead to a full-blown panic attack. It doesn’t matter if the issue is a personal or professional one either. The stress of suddenly being alone can cause a major reaction that often leads to a rapid heart rate, trouble breathing, or even hives for some people.
#3. Situational Depression or Sadness
When you’re feeling anxious about something and neither find a solution nor seek solace, it’s normal to get sad and depressed. You can also start to think that nothing is good enough or believe that things just aren’t the same without the other person/people. After a while, those emotions can develop into clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder, OCD, or another mental health condition.
#4 Reluctance to Participate
Someone experiencing the symptoms of separation anxiety may become apprehensive about doing certain things. They may wait for long periods of time to participate in activities or join groups because they feel as though their support system is missing. That, in turn, can lead to a significant reduction in a person’s independence or the complete elimination of their personal accountability.
#5. Reduced Decision-Making Abilities
People with adult separation anxiety often demonstrate their inability to make conscientious decisions, even when it pertains to important things in their life. Instead, they want for input from another person or group and often base their final options on the opinions of others. Thus, there are usually hidden issues underlying their daily behaviors, including heightened anxiety over pleasing other people.
To recognize the symptoms, you must first admit that there could be a problem. Then, you must identify the triggers to develop effective treatments and/or coping strategies.
The primary causes of separation anxiety
SA can be caused by a wide variety of things, including these:
- Drastic changes in environment
- High stress situations
- Unexpected death
- Trauma or abuse
Get help with your symptoms as quickly as possible to prevent them from developing into something worse.
The best separation anxiety coping mechanisms
There are many ways to cope with the anxiety of separation as an adult. Children may have a harder time adjusting to the various changes associated with the disorder, though. In the meantime, see if any of these tactics help:
- Journaling – Start writing down your thoughts and feelings to keep negative mindsets at bay and to track your progress through therapy.
- Support Groups – Get connected with like-minded people suffering with the same mental health disorder as you.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – Work with a professional to change the way you think, feel, and behave about certain situations.
- Anti-Anxiety Medication – Use natural remedies and pharmaceuticals to help control the symptoms that therapy doesn’t help.
If the symptoms of SA begin disrupting your everyday life or if they start making you feel extremely depressed and anxious, don’t wait to get help. What you’re feeling may be perfectly normal, but the way you’re handling it might not be.
Separation anxiety isn’t just for kids anymore. Adults can experience it too, and the results can be extremely damaging to their way of life. So, if you’re dealing with the symptoms of SA or know someone who is, work with an expert to get well soon.