March 4, 2021
Posted by: cbtkeadmin
Separation anxiety disorder – CBT Kenya
It’s completely normal for children, especially in very young children, to experience some degree of separation anxiety. In contrast, separation anxiety disorder is excessive worry or anxiety that goes beyond that expected for the child’s developmental level. Separation anxiety is considered a disorder if it lasts at least a month and causes significant distress or impairment in functioning. The duration of the disorder reflects its severity.
Adults who live with the disorder experience high levels of anxiety, including possible panic attacks, when loved ones are out of reach. Social anxiety may cause a person to avoid people, or have difficulty concentrating when they are away from loved ones. For parents who experience separation from their children, the disorder can lead to strict, over-involved parenting. In relationships, a person who has separation anxiety may be overbearing and clingy.
What causes separation anxiety disorder
- A significant stressful or traumatic event in the child’s life, such as a stay in the hospital, the death of a loved one or pet, or a change in environment (such as moving to another house or a change of schools)
- Children whose parents are overprotective may be more prone to separation anxiety. In fact, it may not necessarily be a disease of the child but a sign of parental separation anxiety as well — parent and child can feed the other’s anxiety.
- Children with separation anxiety often have family members with anxiety or other mental disorders, which suggests that a risk of getting the disorder may be inherited.
- Some experts believe that childhood separation anxiety disorder is over-diagnosed in this group as they often live in high-crime communities and thus may have a legitimate reason to fear the departure of their loved ones.
- In addition to being more common in children with family histories of anxiety, children whose mothers were stressed during pregnancy with them tend to be more at risk for developing this disorder.
What you can do
- Create a routine with your child. Tell your child that you will be back. Stay calm and try not to show that you are sad or anxious. Leave quickly after you say goodbye. Children become more upset when they are sleepy or hungry. If possible, leave after your child has eaten or taken a nap.
- Tell caregivers or teachers to distract your child when you leave him or her. Tell caregivers or teachers to start a new activity. They can also give your child his or her favorite toy to play with.
- Keep promises to your child. Return when you said you would. This will help your child trust you. It will also help decrease your child’s anxiety.
- Help your child practice deep breathing. Deep breathing can help your child relax when he or she is anxious. Your child should learn to take slow, deep breaths several times a day, or before you have to leave him or her. Tell your child to breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth.
- Offer your child a variety of healthy foods. Healthy foods include fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats, fish, whole-grain breads, and cooked beans. Healthy foods can help your child feel less anxious and have more energy.
Treatment begins by helping the child understand that anxiety is a natural response to the possibility of danger, but their anxiety alarm may be exaggerated. Children are then taught to identify and challenge the worrisome thoughts and recognize the bodily feelings of anxiety as they are developing. Children will also be asked to gradually face their smallest fears and as they succeed in achieving this they will build the self-confidence necessary to continue their progress to conquer their larger fears.
Recent research has suggested that incorporating parents more centrally into the treatment of children with anxiety disorders can be extremely useful in reducing children’s anxious behavior and may enhance treatment effectiveness and maintenance. Parents are often taught new ways to interact with their children so that the child’s fears are not inadvertently reinforced. Parents are also taught ways to give children ample praise and positive reinforcement for brave behavior.
Talk to us
Cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy is a primary type of treatment used for separation anxiety disorder. Such therapy is focused on teaching children several major skills. For example how to recognize anxious feelings regarding separation and to identify their physical reactions to anxiety. They are taught to identify their thoughts in anxiety provoking separation situations to develop a plan to cope adaptively with the situation.