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Separation anxiety is a condition in which an individual experiences extreme distress in the face of physical separation (or the thought of separation) from someone with whom the individual has a significant emotional attachment. To fully understand how separation anxiety works in adults, additional research is required, as the scientific understanding of this condition is limited. However, one study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience found that the amygdala (the area of the brain responsible for processing emotional experiences) is highly engaged in those with separation anxiety. Further, those with separation anxiety disorder in adulthood were more emotionally responsive, which implies that for high separation-anxious people it is more important to assess, explain and predict other peoples’ intentions because of an exaggerated anxiety to get abandoned or forsaken. Separation anxiety in adults is classified as an anxiety disorder, and is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as separation anxiety disorder.


Separation anxiety disorder is defined as “an exaggeration of otherwise developmentally normal anxiety manifested by excessive concern, worry, and even dread of the real or anticipated separation from an attachment figure.” The most effective way to handle separation anxiety in adulthood is through professional treatment, as treatment is akin to those used to treat other anxiety disorders. The two main treatments for an anxiety disorder, including separation anxiety disorder, involve psychotherapy and medication, and they are not mutually exclusive.  Any person in treatment will require a nuanced treatment plan that carefully incorporates the best possible therapeutic methods and are specifically geared to everyone’s personal needs. There are different types of therapeutic modalities that could be integrated into one’s treatment plan, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), expressive arts therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT). Some individuals diagnosed with a separation anxiety disorder may benefit from including medication into the treatment plan, in conjunction with various therapeutic methods. The different types of medications prescribed for anxiety disorders include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and norepinephrine and dopamine reuptake inhibitors (NDRIs). Depending on one’s needs integrating a combination of both psychotherapy and medication into one’s treatment plan can yield the most successful long-term results.

For Information and Support 

Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times. Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.


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