What Is Adult Separation Anxiety?

by Marie Miguel

For a very long time, psychologists have been aware that some children suffer from extreme anxiety about being away from their parents. In fact, every healthy child goes through a time when they have at least some separation anxiety.

But, what if you’re an adult? You go to work, you take care of your family, you engage in adult activities, you read articles written for adults. Yet, you feel terrified of being without someone who’s important to you. As experts have now realized, separation anxiety can happen at any age.

What Are the Symptoms?

Adult separation anxiety shows up as recurrent fears about being away from home or away from those you’re attached to in your life. If you have several of the following symptoms, it might be a good time to talk to a counselor in your community or at BetterHelp.com.

  • You often become very distressed when you’re away from home or the person you’re attached to.
  • You keep worrying that you’ll lose that person or something bad will happen to them.
  • You can’t stop worrying that some terrible event will keep you away from that person.
  • You avoid separation by staying home from work or school.
  • You’re afraid of being alone, even at home.
  • You can’t sleep without that person nearby.
  • You have repeated nightmares about being separated from them.
  • You have physical symptoms of distress, like headaches and stomach aches, when you’re away from them.

How It Affects Your Life

In addition to the direct consequence of dealing with the above symptoms, Adult Separation Anxiety can impact nearly every part of your life. Your relationships are likely to suffer. The person you’re attached to will probably get tired of the drama. The more you cling, the more they want to get away. You need them so much it becomes a burden to them. If the relationship doesn’t end completely, it’s likely to become very dysfunctional.

It can also damage your career. You have trouble even going to work. Then, when you get there, you have problems interacting with your coworkers and supervisors. Since you don’t sleep well, you go to work exhausted and can’t perform your job well.

Treatment Can Help

There is currently no standard treatment for Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder. However, a counselor can help you in several ways. Often, they use a Cognitive Behavioral modality called exposure therapy.

The idea of exposure therapy is that you are introduced to a situation you fear. At first, the exposure is very limited. Perhaps the person you’re attached to would leave the room long enough for you to begin to feel the fear. Each succeeding exposure lasts a little longer.

All along the way, the counselor helps you see how the separation isn’t disastrous. They help you get past the obsessive thoughts. Eventually, you feel comfortable with being away from the security of your loved one’s presence.

Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder is a relatively new diagnosis. Psychologists still have a lot to learn. Yet, they do know enough even now to help you feel and function better. Deciding to get help is the first and best choice you can make if you think this disorder might be holding you back from enjoying a full, happy life.


Marie Miguel

Marie Miguel Bio


Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.


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