Separation Anxiety

By | June 10, 2022

Separation anxiety is an emotion that can take a toll on those affected, their partners, and their families. The way to overcome this fear is to become aware of the emotional processes and learn new behavioral patterns.

What is separation anxiety?

Separation anxiety is a major (in most cases) factually unfounded fear that affects both children and adults. The fear of losing the most important caregiver often arises in children, for example, when they are brought to kindergarten for the first time and are supposed to stay there. For scabies basics, please visit

However, if the fears shown last much longer than usual, so that social life is significantly impaired, separation anxiety is considered pathological. Doctors categorize such behavior with the child and adolescent psychiatric diagnosis “emotional disorder of childhood” with separation anxiety.

Separation anxiety is not uncommon at this stage of life and, in most cases, passes quickly. However, there are also cases in which the fear of separation persists for a longer period of time and also occurs during school days. In adulthood, the issue of separation anxiety is also relevant in interpersonal relationships.

Especially in very low-conflict relationships, one (or both) partners are often affected by separation anxiety. As soon as the partner wants to realize themselves more, the partner feels threatened with greater separation anxiety. Even if fidelity or breaking up is not an issue, jealousy and panic can arise.


Pinpointing a reliable trigger for separation anxiety is difficult. Underlying an anxiety disorder is always a complex interaction between the environment and a person’s emotions. Very shy and introverted children and adults have a higher risk of developing anxiety.

It is not uncommon for people with separation anxiety to have “alienated” in their early childhood. Children affected by separation anxiety often fear that something will happen to their parents while they are away. If the parents, out of ignorance, do not solve these situations competently, but simply avoid situations that cause fear, the offspring cannot learn how to deal with their fear of being alone.

Of course, experiences of rejection and actual loss can also have a traumatic effect and thus contribute to the development of separation anxiety. When separation anxiety occurs in adult relationships, it is often caused by a feeling of being unable to take care of oneself as a single person. The fear of loss creates emotional dependency.

Symptoms, Ailments & Signs

If children suffer from separation anxiety and do not want to go to kindergarten or school in the morning, then they are very likely not to give the real reason (their fear) but develop psychosomatic nausea, headaches or stomach ache.

Many children also react with open expressions of displeasure, with crying and screaming when a “separation” is to come. The fear of falling asleep can also be a manifestation of separation anxiety. Sleeping in the parents’ bed is a short-term solution to avoiding the late-night drama, but it doesn’t get to the root of separation anxiety.

The same is true in adult relationships where separation anxiety is an issue. Either the fear is not shown openly. In these cases, most of the time the person with separation anxiety tries to avoid the conflict in order to keep the relationship going no matter what.

The person experiencing separation anxiety does not allow themselves to be open about their feelings and desires. If the fear of separation is shown openly, there can be scenes that put the other person under pressure and are intended to make them give in. Both are conceivable.

Diagnosis & course of disease

Separation anxiety is recognized in situations in which a (very short) separation is announced and the other person (child or adult) reacts disproportionately. Fear is an intense human emotion. Through fear we can recognize threats and thus ensure survival.

Individuals affected by separation anxiety have an irrational need for security that is actually already being met. If the help is to give in, the behavior becomes entrenched.


A pronounced separation anxiety is a great burden for the person affected as well as for their relatives and friends. Affected children often develop psychosomatic symptoms such as nausea, headaches or abdominal pain. If the fear of separation is not dealt with therapeutically, psychological suffering often develops, which can persist into adulthood and significantly restrict the affected person’s lifestyle.

Adults who suffer from separation anxiety cause stress and anxiety in their partner. In the long run, the partnership suffers and new conflicts arise again and again, which in most cases lead to separation. Such an incision is a traumatic experience for the person concerned.

Without psychological help, mental disorders (such as inferiority complexes or social anxiety) can develop. In individual cases there is a risk of suicide – not only due to the emotional pain that the person concerned feels, but often also as a kind of defiant reaction to the separation. Drug treatment for separation anxiety can be associated with short-term or permanent personality changes. Fatigue and numbness are typical side effects of antidepressants, which significantly reduce the quality of life, at least temporarily.

When should you go to the doctor?

The fear of losing a loved one is considered a natural feeling. If two people part ways due to a move, the end of a relationship or a possible death, many are helpless in the face of this development. In most cases, the events can be overcome with the support of the social environment. A doctor or therapist is not required. Conversations, the process of understanding and accepting the situation lead to an alleviation of the symptoms after a few weeks or months. It is a natural process that does not require medical care.

However, if massive complaints or problems occur, the use of therapeutic help is indicated. In the event of behavioral problems, weight changes, withdrawal behavior or listlessness, we recommend consulting a doctor. A depressive appearance, panic reactions or hysterical behavior are considered alarming. If you experience a sleep disorder, vegetative irregularities, concentration problems or headaches, you should consult a doctor.

In the event of inner restlessness, the experience of persistent suffering or trembling of the limbs, the person concerned needs help. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or inner tension are signs of health impairment and should be discussed with a doctor. If the usual obligations can no longer be met, a doctor’s visit should be made.

Treatment & Therapy

Separation anxiety occurs when there is a fear of separation. Since these fears of being abandoned are usually unfounded, it is important to address the topic and thus bring clarity to the diffuse fears. Giving in and avoiding are bad ideas. This applies to children as well as to the partner affected by separation anxiety.

Rather, it is about creating positive new experiences in order to develop new conditioning. Parents can learn to create necessities for the children to face challenges. You can convey to the child that you trust him to deal with the “separation”. In adult relationships, many clarifying conversations are also helpful when separation anxiety is identified.

As long as the relationship is based on fidelity and honesty, then a partner’s separation anxiety will not pose a threat. In very few cases is professional help from a therapist required. If that is the case, then the therapy will try to find out the cause of the fear.


Preventive measures to avoid separation anxiety are the acquisition of skills aimed at a person’s independence. For children, this can be shopping at the bakery or spending the night with friends. Adults should learn to stand on their own two feet. In a relationship, each partner should have the space to realize themselves and make their own experiences.


After therapy for separation anxiety, consistent follow-up care is important in order to prevent the symptoms from flaring up again in the long term. Follow-up care can be coordinated with the treating therapist. Visiting a self-help group can also be very useful: people who have or had the same problems with separation anxiety can support each other and give helpful tips.

Discussions with the partner are often also a means of counteracting separation anxiety during aftercare. Doubts about the faithfulness and loyalty of the partner can often be dealt with right from the start, before the severe separation anxiety develops. Two other aspects that should be particularly integrated as pillars of aftercare are important for people with separation anxiety.

On the one hand, the patients’ self-confidence must be strengthened so that they are not afraid of being alone and, in the event of a real separation, they develop the feeling that they can cope well on their own. This reduces separation anxiety in many cases. In addition, it is also very important to live social contacts outside of the partnership and to reactivate or even expand them in aftercare. So the focus is not on the partner alone. Feeling safe in a social network can also help to prevent separation anxiety.

You can do that yourself

Separation anxiety is a phenomenon in which those affected can often noticeably improve their situation through self-help in everyday life. Knowing the cause of separation anxiety is especially helpful in this context.

If the cause is a lack of self-esteem or the feeling of not being able to be alone, remedies that boost self-confidence are often helpful. Hobbies and company with friends are suitable for placing social contacts on a broad basis. The fixation on the partner as a common cause of separation anxiety can be reduced in this way.

If the cause of the separation anxiety is in the partner themselves, conversations are often the right way to go when it comes to discussing the fear of separation. Also friends and other confidants are often helpful conversation partners for discussing this very personal problem. If the problem is not only linked to the current partner, but has also occurred in previous partnerships, this system can also be discussed in a special self-help group for partnership problems.

Serenity and basic trust are important factors with regard to a relaxed relationship without separation anxiety. Classic relaxation methods such as PMR ( progressive muscle relaxation according to Jacobsen) or autogenic training can be helpful here . Regular yoga practice can also help.

Separation Anxiety