Symptoms of Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety describes the situation when a child has anxiety or gets upset when separated from the person who usually cares for them, typically the mother. This often occurs when a baby is 8 to 14 months, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. It is very common and even normal; however, in some cases it can get extreme. Parents can look for the following signs to see if their child is experiencing a severe case.

The most common sign is that the child is extremely upset when separated from the person to whom he or she has developed the attachment. The baby may cry when the parent leaves the room, for instance, no matter who else is holding him or her. He or she may scream or tantrum. It can get to the point where the parent feels like he or she cannot leave the child, even for an instant. In some cases, the parent feels like he or she cannot take a night off or even a few hours off to leave the child with another family member.

In severe cases, the child may still get upset even if the parent is still there but is not holding him or her. He or she may cry every time the parent lets go, even though he or she remains close by.

Babies with extreme separation anxiety may experience nightmares. Obviously he or she cannot tell you about these, but he or she may wake up at night crying and screaming. It may also be very difficult for him or her to go to bed, especially if the caregiver leaves.

The baby may be very wary of strangers in general, as well. He or she may even treat the father or other parent poorly.

The child may also be upset about going anywhere where he or she may be separated from the primary caregiver. For instance, the baby may start to cry every time he or she goes to the grandparents’ house if you typically leave him or her there.

Typically, separation anxiety gets better on its own, even in severe cases. There are treatment options if the child is older, if the child has regressed or if it is a very severe case. These may include family therapy, family education, individual psychotherapy, anti-anxiety medications and parenting technique alterations. With work, you and your child will have the best chance of getting past extreme separation anxiety.