Is this a symptom of anxiety, or an anxiety disorder?
Separation anxiety is a normal phase in a baby’s development. It often occurs around the eighth month when the child starts developing motor skills and becomes independent. At the beginning of life, humans are the only mammals that don’t know how to move on their own and when they do, they need a protective gaze on them.
This is one of the reasons for this separation anxiety. It regularly lasts until the child is 18 months old, sometimes less but rarely more, otherwise it’s called separation anxiety disorder. This anxiety disorder develops mainly in children between 6 and 7 years of age, but sometimes also in teenagers. Adolescents experience strong anxiety when they have to leave their loved ones (especially their parents) and their home. Separation anxiety disorder occurs when a child displays three of these eight symptoms:
- excessive distress in situations where there is separation from people to whom the child is attached,
- excessive and persistent fear related to the disappearance of one or more primary caregivers,
- excessive and persistent fear of an unhappy event that separates the child from their primary caregivers,
- persistent reluctance or refusal to go to school because of this fear of separation,
- excessive reluctance to stay home alone or to go to other environments or places alone,
- refusal to go to bed without being close to a caregiver,
- recurrent nightmares about separation,
- repeated physical complaints during separation from people to whom the child is attached.
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Separation anxiety: Attachment and a body of your own
While separation anxiety disorder is a condition that needs to be treated, sometimes with the help of individual or family therapy, separation anxiety is a necessary stage of development because it means the baby is growing up, becoming aware of the world around him or her and above all has created a bond of attachment with his or her parents, because he or she feels safe. And then, while they were in total symbiosis during pregnancy, then more partial with their parent, mainly the mother, suddenly they become aware that they have their own body, and so they experience the mental separation and the anxiety that goes with it!
Relieving anxiety in children: What do I do, and what should I avoid doing?
As we have seen, it’s an important phase in a baby’s development and although it’s often short, it can be very difficult for both parents and the child. So, I have some tips that should help you during this time.
1. Give your child their favorite cuddly toy
This is the time to introduce them to a cuddly toy! The cuddly toy, pacifier or any other object is a substitute for the parent. It’s the object that symbolizes the continuation of the attachment bond in the absence of the parents. It’s therefore the ideal time to bond with Bunny, Teddy or Piggy etc.
2. Stay close to your child
Stay close to your child when they arrive in unfamiliar territory. They need time to get used to a new place, so stay close to them to reassure them and give them gentle encouragement.
3. Play hide-and-seek
Play hide-and-seek or peek-a-boo so that your child integrates the idea of the permanence of the object: even when my parents or an object are no longer under my gaze, they continue to exist.
4. Don’t overreact
Make the separation a pleasant – but short – moment! Basically, if your child cries, console them, then give them a kiss, say goodbye and then leave. Don’t overdramatize the situation.
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What you should avoid doing:
1. Don’t start babysitting during this time. You may aggravate or prolong the separation anxiety.
2. Don’t force them to go to others, and don’t make him angry if he tries to express a concern.
3. Avoid changing rooms without warning your child. Communicating with your baby is essential and even if they don’t always understand what you’re telling them, they know that you’re talking to them. This is why you should say “I’m going to get something from the car, I’m coming back.”, “I’m going to the toilet, I’m coming back.”, etc. Finally, avoid leaving without saying anything when the baby is playing or sleeping. They will end up looking for you and will get the impression they have been abandoned when they realize you’re not there anymore.
Depending on the child, the anxiety lasts for a longer or shorter period of time, and it already gives indications of your child’s character: rather resilient or perhaps a little more explosive! But if the anxiety lasts longer than 18 months, it may be worth talking to a specialist.
What about in adults?
Adults can also suffer from separation anxiety. This is more of an intolerance of loneliness, even a panicked fear of loneliness and abandonment. These people often have complicated love lives because they start a relationship primarily to avoid being alone, rather than for love. It’s therefore impossible for them to escape from a toxic relationship or a narcissistic pervert.
The fear of being alone is greater than anything else. It’s typically those around them who notice this difficulty. You should therefore help the person suffering from separation anxiety by suggesting therapy. It’s the only way to heal a wound that often goes back to early childhood and prevents the person from going through life alone!
Editor’s note: Don’t hesitate to seek help
If you feel that the separation anxiety is too great for your child or that something isn’t right, don’t hesitate to contact a psychologist to take stock of the situation.
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