What is separation anxiety?
Dr. Jesse Hanson, founder of the private clinic Hanson Healing and consultant for Rehab.com, said separation anxiety is the fear of being separated from a loved one or someone we think is a safe and source of contact.
It’s worth noting that it’s normal for anyone to feel a little lonely and upset because they are away from their loved ones, but when they feel out of control or cause a lot of pain, this is a sign that needs attention, said David Klemansky, a master of public health. Psychologist at Yale Medical School.
This article explores the characteristics and causes of separation anxiety, its impact on relationships, and strategies to help you cope with it.
Characteristics of separation anxiety
According to Klemansky, these are some of the characteristics of separation anxiety:
- It is usually recurring: As a disorder, separation anxiety usually recurs and manifests itself as excessive pain when anticipating or experiencing separation. It can lead to constant and excessive worry about losing someone due to injury, illness, injury, accident, abandonment, etc.
- It works in a range: Separation anxiety works in a range, because some people may have some mild symptoms, while others may experience a lot of anxiety and pain.
- More common in children: Separation anxiety disorder is more common in children, but it may also occur when adolescents and adults are far away from children, partners, or other family members. Mental care providers often look for signs that anxiety does not match personal development. For example, they may think that young children will show signs of separation anxiety, but they don’t want to see many of these signs in teenagers or older people without good reason.
Causes of separation anxiety
Hansen said that separation anxiety most often affects people who exhibit insecure attachment styles.
According to Klemansky, these are some of the causes of separation anxiety:
- Genetic factors: Separation anxiety has a genetic component, and there is a correlation between anxious parents and children with higher levels of separation anxiety.
- Environmental factors: Some environmental factors may also play a role, such as loss of parents (e.g. due to separation, divorce or death), highly confused or stressed family, long-term absence of parents (due to military deployment, imprisonment or abandonment, for example), parental conflict, etc. .
- Anxiety disorder: Diagnosis of another anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder, may be a risk factor for separation anxiety disorder.
Separation anxiety manifests more in some relationships than in others. For example, you are more likely to experience this form of anxiety in a relationship with a romantic partner than with friends or acquaintances. Hansen explains why below.
Separation anxiety in relationships
Usually, the establishment of a relationship is in the spirit of cultivating the family. When we enter an intimate relationship and begin to become vulnerable, it brings a deeper part of a younger self, closer to our earliest family experience.
When we are vulnerable in a relationship, we begin to see our partner as a source of connection, safety, and familiarity. Because of these stronger feelings, we are afraid of losing this relationship to the point where separation anxiety develops, especially if we grow up in a family that unconsciously spreads insecure attachment styles.
For example, in other relationships, we may establish contact or friendship with neighbors or shop assistants, but we will not activate the vulnerability that may cause separation anxiety, so we do not worry about losing contact or acquaintances with that friend.
The effects of separation anxiety
David Klemansky, PhD in Psychology, miles per hour
The impact of separation anxiety on a person’s mental health varies from person to person, depending on the severity or degree of the anxiety caused by separation.
— David Klemanski, PhD in Psychology, MPH
Separation anxiety can cause a variety of symptoms and affect your mental health and relationships.
Symptoms of separation anxiety
Klemansky listed some symptoms of separation anxiety:
- Physical symptoms: In some people, separation anxiety can cause symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat, tingling limbs, or general anxiety.
- Behavioral and cognitive symptoms: Separation anxiety can cause significant changes in mood (such as worsening anxiety or depression), concentration, decision-making, and even diet or sleep.
- Functional problems: Separation anxiety can also cause some people to have functional problems, such as avoiding going out, having difficulties at work or school, or resorting to materials to cope.
Below, Hansen outlines some of the effects of separation anxiety.
Impact on mental health
Living in a state of fear will make us more passive and make decisions where we are afraid or do not want to lose someone or something.
Therefore, the decisions we make are usually not made in our hearts, but more in our minds, reacting to the negative results imagined in the future. This state of existence greatly affects our mental health, because it is more difficult for us to experience happy and safe connections and attachments.
Impact on relationship
In any relationship, the more vulnerable we become, the deeper our connection with our partners, and the more we fear losing them.
Dr. Jesse Hanson
For those who experience separation anxiety, fear will lead them to try more to possess, control or be jealous.
— Dr. Jesse Hanson
But in a healthy relationship, when we let go and learn how to build trust and love, we are less likely to fall into separation anxiety. This is the so-called interdependence-an ability to be autonomous and still maintain a deep connection with another person.
Coping with separation anxiety in a relationship
Klemanski and Hanson shared some strategies that can help you deal with separation anxiety in relationships:
- Recognizing signs: First, it is important to recognize signs of separation anxiety by talking to trusted family members, partners, friends, or professionals, Klemanski said.
- Acknowledge and accept it: People who can identify with separation anxiety need to do their best to realize that this is not just separation anxiety, but a deep fear of giving up their loved ones. Hansen said it would be very helpful to be able to admit this or work hard to accept it.
- Observing healthy relationships: “It can be useful to observe healthy, interdependent relationships. These examples provide a template for the brain and the body about how they are related, rather than just understanding interdependent and insecure relationships,” Hansen said.
- Believe in your own abilities: Klemanski said that it’s important to remember that separation anxiety is temporary and can be relieved by paying attention to your own abilities-if you are separated from your partner, remind yourself that you have dealt with this problem before, and that Your partner’s reunion will be even more special. At the same time, he suggests finding ways to take up your time meaningfully.
- Try yoga and meditation: Hanson recommends physical and mental exercises, such as yoga and meditation, to help you fight anxiety.
- Seek treatment: Klemanski said that in addition to planning to increase communication with partners and other family members, professional treatment in the form of psychotherapy may be a useful option for exploration. He said that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help redefine cognitive bias or learn to relax when anxiety increases.
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Separation anxiety can make it difficult to separate from your loved ones, especially from your partner. It can cause a variety of symptoms and damage your mental health and relationships.
Practicing yoga and meditation to keep yourself meaningfully busy can help you control anxiety. However, understanding the causes of these symptoms and addressing deeper problems—including dealing with any unresolved trauma—will ultimately be the true cure for separation anxiety, Hansen said.
“This phenomenon is called the’secure attachment won’. In other words, you have to work for it and get it; but once you do this, life, love, and relationships become more enjoyable,” Han Sen said.