To meet the criteria for separation anxiety disorder, the child must have the symptoms for at least 4 weeks. The first-line treatment for the majority of separation anxiety cases is psychotherapy; cognitive behavioral therapy in particular is used with great success on mild to moderate cases.
Signs of an Anxiety Disorder
Psychotherapeutic: Treatment for separation anxiety disorder typically involves cognitive behavioral therapy, a treatment approach that helps children learn to understand and manage their fears. Exposure therapy, a specialized form of CBT, might also be used. Exposure therapy works by carefully exposing children to separation in small, controlled doses, helping to reduce their anxiety over time. Doctors might also use relaxation training and teach children to use coping statements. Because parents can inadvertently reinforce anxiety when they are comforting anxious children, treatment frequently also involves parent training on how to respond to anxiety.
Some doctors also recommend contingency management, which is a way to reinforce brave behavior by rewarding children for meeting their treatment goals. A variety of medications have been shown to be effective in treating separation anxiety disorder; the first-line medication is one of the SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor family. Typical anxiolytics—or anti-anxiety medications—like the benzodiazepines are also effective, though they can be habit forming.
Many kids with one anxiety disorder also have another, and they are more likely than average to be depressed, too. Both are true of separation anxiety. Usually the anxiety condition develops first, and is considered a risk factor for later depression. Your privacy is important to us. Any information you provide to us via this website may be placed by us on servers located in countries outside of the EU. If you do not agree to such placement, do not provide the information. To proceed, simply complete the form below, and a link to the article will be sent by email on your behalf.
Anxiety disorders form a category of mental health diagnoses that lead to excessive nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worry. These disorders alter how a person processes emotions and behave, also causing physical symptoms. Mild anxiety might be vague and unsettling, while severe anxiety may seriously affect day-to-day living. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million people in the United States. It is the most common group of mental illnesses in the country. However, only The American Psychological Association APA defines anxiety as "an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.
Knowing the difference between normal feelings of anxiety and an anxiety disorder requiring medical attention can help a person identify and treat the condition. In this article, we look at the differences between anxiety and anxiety disorder, the different types of anxiety, and the available treatment options. When an individual faces potentially harmful or worrying triggers, feelings of anxiety are not only normal but necessary for survival.
Since the earliest days of humanity, the approach of predators and incoming danger sets off alarms in the body and allows evasive action. These alarms become noticeable in the form of a raised heartbeat, sweating, and increased sensitivity to surroundings. The danger causes a rush of adrenalin, a hormone and chemical messenger in the brain, which in turn triggers these anxious reactions in a process called the "fight-or-flight' response.
This prepares humans to physically confront or flee any potential threats to safety. For many people, running from larger animals and imminent danger is a less pressing concern than it would have been for early humans.
Anxieties now revolve around work, money, family life, health, and other crucial issues that demand a person's attention without necessarily requiring the 'fight-or-flight' reaction. The nervous feeling before an important life event or during a difficult situation is a natural echo of the original 'fight-or-flight' reaction. It can still be essential to survival — anxiety about being hit by a car when crossing the street, for example, means that a person will instinctively look both ways to avoid danger. The duration or severity of an anxious feeling can sometimes be out of proportion to the original trigger, or stressor.
Physical symptoms, such as increased blood pressure and nausea, may also develop. These responses move beyond anxiety into an anxiety disorder. The APA describes a person with anxiety disorder as "having recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. While a number of different diagnoses constitute anxiety disorders, the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder GAD will often include the following:.
While these symptoms might be normal to experience in daily life, people with GAD will experience them to persistent or extreme levels. GAD may present as vague, unsettling worry or a more severe anxiety that disrupts day-to-day living. For information on the symptoms of other diagnoses under the umbrella of anxiety disorders, follow the links in the "Types" section below. However, the manual now no longer groups these mental health difficulties under anxiety. Anxiety disorders now include the following diagnoses. Generalized anxiety disorder: This is a chronic disorder involving excessive, long-lasting anxiety and worries about nonspecific life events, objects, and situations.
GAD is the most common anxiety disorder, and people with the disorder are not always able to identify the cause of their anxiety. Panic disorder: Brief or sudden attacks of intense terror and apprehension characterize panic disorder. These attacks can lead to shaking, confusion, dizziness, nausea, and breathing difficulties.
Panic attacks tend to occur and escalate rapidly, peaking after 10 minutes. However, a panic attack might last for hours. Panic disorders usually occur after frightening experiences or prolonged stress but may also occur without a trigger.
Understanding Anxiety Disorders
An individual experiencing a panic attack may misinterpret it as a life-threatening illness, and may make drastic changes in behavior to avoid future attacks. Click here to learn more about panic disorder and panic attacks.
Specific phobia: This is an irrational fear and avoidance of a particular object or situation. Phobias are not like other anxiety disorders, as they relate to a specific cause. A person with a phobia might acknowledge a fear as illogical or extreme but remain unable to control feelings anxiety around the trigger. Triggers for a phobia range from situations and animals to everyday objects.
Click here to learn more about phobias and how they develop. Agoraphobia: This is a fear and avoidance of places, events, or situations from which it may be difficult to escape or in which help would not be available if a person becomes trapped. People often misunderstand this condition as a phobia of open spaces and the outdoors, but it is not so simple.
A person with agoraphobia may have a fear of leaving home or using elevators and public transport. Click here to learn about agoraphobia, an often-misunderstood psychological disorder. Rector , PhD, C. While at CAMH she was a clinical social worker in the Mood and Anxiety Program, as a psychotherapist, and later as an advanced practice clinician.
Generalized anxiety disorder - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic
Judith Laposa , PhD, C. In addition to working with clients, Dr. Laposa mentors students and professionals from a variety of disciplines in the administration of cognitive behavioural therapy. Rector , Ph. Linda Joseph-Massiah , inf.