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Separation Anxiety Disorder

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Apr 2, 2024.

What is separation anxiety disorder?

Separation anxiety disorder is a condition in children that causes strong fear or worry about being away from something familiar. Examples include a parent or home. Separation anxiety is common for children until about 3 years of age. Separation anxiety becomes a disorder when these feelings continue longer and prevent your child from doing daily activities.

What are the signs and symptoms of separation anxiety disorder?

Your child may show any of the following signs or symptoms:

What increases my child's risk for separation anxiety disorder?

The cause of separation anxiety disorder may not be known. It may appear after a major stress in your child's life. Examples include the loss or illness of a loved one, divorce of parents, or moving to a new place. The following also increase your child's risk:

How is separation anxiety disorder diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will ask about your child's behavior and fears. The provider may also ask how long your child has had the behaviors. Your child's provider may also ask how your child is doing in school and with other activities. Tell the provider if any other family members have or had an anxiety disorder.

How is separation anxiety disorder treated?

Early treatment can help prevent separation anxiety disorder from getting worse. It can also help prevent other problems, such as depression. Your child may need any of the following:

Treatment options

The following list of medications are related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

View more treatment options

What can I do to help my child?

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

When should I call my child's doctor?

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.