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Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation anxiety disorder occurs in approximately 4% of children and adolescents. Children with this disorder fear being out of sight or out of hearing range of parents or significant care takers. They may cry or protest any attempt of parents to leave them at school, daycare, or alone in bed. Often children with this disorder avoid sleeping alone, or being alone in rooms without a parent present. Parents often feel that it is impossible to go out or to run errands without their anxious child having a tantrum. Children and teens with this disorder frequently avoid school and may often complain of stomachaches and headaches when faced with having to be apart from their parents. Children and teens with separation anxiety may worry that something terrible might happen while they are apart from parents or caretakers. Older children may worry about car accidents, kidnappings or terrorist assaults if separated from their parents.
Treatment of separation anxiety disorder involves exposure therapy, imaginal flooding and cognitive therapy. Gradual exposure practice helps the child to learn that they can tolerate and overcome their fears to being apart from their parent or caretaker. Imaginal flooding helps the child to overcome their fearful imagination and cognitive therapy helps the child to challenge their worries and mistaken beliefs about being separated from their parents or caretakers.
Staff at AATC have specialized experience in helping children and teens overcome their fears of separation. Parents are taught how to manage tantrums and distress while encouraging their child to become more independent and confident. Gradual exposure practice helps children learn that their worst fears about separation are false and that they can enjoy sleeping, playing and attending school apart from their parents or caretakers. Staff will also help families to establish a normal and healthy routine for independent behavior for their child.