Separation Anxiety Disorder
Separation anxiety disorder (SAD) is defined as developmentally inappropriate fear and anxiety about being away from home and/or apart from the individuals to whom a child is most attached.
- This diagnosis should be distinguished from developmentally appropriate worries, fears, and responses to stressors.
- Prevalence estimates range from 4% in children aged 7 to 9 years to 1.6% in adolescents.
- Prevalence is slightly higher in females than males.
- Symptoms tend to peak between 7 and 9 years of age, but the disorder can present at any age.
Studies show that there are genetic and environmental precursors to the development of SAD:
- A temperament of behavioral inhibition in which a child tends to approach unfamiliar situations with distress, restraint, and avoidance has been shown to be associated with development of anxiety disorders.
- Low experience of control over the environment
- Early development of stranger anxiety
- Insecure attachment between parent and child
- Increased parental anxiety
- Parenting style of being excessively controlling and overprotective
- Exposure to negative life events or stressors
- Genetic predisposition with family history of anxiety or depression
Commonly Associated Conditions
Comorbid conditions are present in up to 80% of children with SAD, most commonly including the following:
- School refusal
- Simple phobia
- Social phobia
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
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