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Separation Anxiety in Parents


Childhood separation anxiety is widely recognised as a problem that frequently manifests in toddlers and school-aged children. But separation anxiety has been found to be commonly found amongst adults, especially amongst parents of young children. Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder has only recently been formally recognised as a common type of adult anxiety problem affecting 1 in 20 people worldwide.  So this means that most parents who suffer the symptoms do not get accurately diagnosed - as most general practitioners and mental health professionals are, as yet, unfamiliar with the disorder.


The key characteristic of Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder in parents is intense worry that something untoward or catastrophic will happen to their children such as fears that their children may get kidnapped, meet with an accident or develop an incurable illness. Parents with Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder may repeatedly seek reassurance that their children are all right. For example, they may ‘shadow’ their children to and from school to make sure that they get there safely, and they may become overprotective and intrusive in their children’s lives. Other behaviours may include repeatedly ringing their children’s school to make sure that they are safe, or texting and phoning their children several times a day to feel reassured. When this reassurance is not available, parents may become increasingly anxious to the point of panic.


If untreated, relationships between parents and their children, partners and friends can become strained. Parents with Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder may also develop secondary depression, checking behaviours, sleep disturbances and unremitting worry.  


As the disorder has only just been recently recognised, many health professionals are not familiar in making the diagnosis or treating the disorder. Furthermore, many adults with high levels of separation anxiety are often embarrassed to discuss this problem with health professionals. As a result, people with Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder usually end up being treated for other conditions – which are associated with separation anxiety but not necessarily the main problem. Recognising the symptoms is the first step to addressing this type of anxiety. The next step is to discuss it with a general practitioner who can help you find a mental health professional who is able to work with you in overcoming these symptoms.

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