What Is Adult Separation Anxiety?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 23 December 2018
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Adult separation anxiety is a grown-up version of the same disorder that often plagues children who can't stand to be away from their parents. This can manifest in slightly different ways in terms of the focus of the anxiety in adults in comparison to children. For example, the separation anxiety could be related to a spouse or a child instead of the parents. Some experts feel that this disorder gets underreported and that it may be more common than anybody realizes.

Nobody knows the exact mechanism behind adult separation anxiety, but some theorize that it is simply a direct extension of the childhood disorder. There is a possibility that people who have this problem as children often carry it into adulthood and simply learn to deal with it easier. They may get over their anxiety about being separated from parents, but transfer those feelings onto other family members of friends. Experts suggest that many anxiety disorders can easily continue through childhood into adulthood, and they think this may be another example of that.

The effect of adult separation anxiety is sometimes much less pronounced than the childhood version, but this may not be because the emotions are any less intense. The individual may have simply mastered many different coping mechanisms during his life that allow him to react in a slightly healthier way. Even so, many people with adult separation anxiety may find that their lives are severely disrupted by their inability to behave rationally.


Some people with adult separation anxiety will find it very difficult to work or do anything when they're worried about loved ones. Sometimes they may even change their schedules just to be near these people as often as possible. If they aren't able to do this, the stress can almost be unbearable sometimes.

Psychotherapy is usually the first line of treatment for adult separation anxiety. Sometimes people might also take anti-anxiety drugs to help them stay calm. Usually, these treatments aren't enough to totally erase separation anxiety problems, but they can sometimes help people cope.

This disorder was officially recognized by psychiatrists in the 1990s, but many doctors had noticed these symptoms in their patients prior to that. Sometimes the symptoms of adult separation anxiety may not be all that severe, and some individuals will never seek any kind of medical treatment. For these reasons, some experts theorize that the disorder might be much more common than it seems at first glance.



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