The essential feature of Separation Anxiety Disorder is excessive anxiety concerning separation by a child from the home or from those (in adolescents and adults) to whom the person is attached. This anxiety is beyond that which is expected for the individual’s developmental level. The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, lasting at least 4 weeks in children and adolescents and typically 6 months or more in adults.

Children with Separation Anxiety Disorder tend to come from families that are close-knit. When separated from home or major attachment figures, they may recurrently exhibit social withdrawal, apathy, sadness, or difficulty concentrating on work or play.

Specific Symptoms of Separation Anxiety Disorder:

Developmentally inappropriate and excessive anxiety concerning separation from home or from those to whom the individual is attached, as evidenced by three (or more) of the following:

  • recurrent excessive distress when separation from home or major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated
  • persistent and excessive worry about losing, or about possible harm befalling, major attachment figures
  • persistent and excessive worry that an untoward event will lead to separation from a major attachment figure (e.g., getting lost or being kidnapped)
  • persistent reluctance or refusal to go to school or elsewhere because of fear of separation
  • persistently and excessively fearful or reluctant to be alone or without major attachment figures at home or without significant adults in other settings
  • persistent reluctance or refusal to go to sleep without being near a near a major attachment figure or to sleep away from home
  • repeated nightmares involving the theme of separation
  • repeated complaints of physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomach-aches, nausea, or vomiting) when separation from major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated