Do You Have Adult Separation Anxiety?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Childhood separation anxiety is a serious problem, because it hurts healthy psychological development. When a child is too attached to their parents, they rarely strike out on their own socially or learn how to gain independence that will help them later in life. They may even develop anxiety disorders and abandonment issues – all of which can affect the child's ability to grow up emotionally healthy and happy.

But separation anxiety doesn't end in childhood. Many adults suffer from what appears to be adult separation anxiety. Adult separation anxiety is not a valid medical disorder in the DSM-IV-TR, and yet perhaps it should be, because many adults appear to show manifestations of separation anxiety issues.

Understanding Adult Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety in adults manifests itself in many different ways. It's not simply an over-attachment to your parents – although that's certainly a possible symptom; it may also be seen in a variety of adult behaviors that are considered unhealthy. Some of these include:

• Jealousy – Some mild jealousy is a natural human emotion that many emotionally healthy people experience. But severe jealousy is not. Severe jealousy may be a form of adult separation anxiety. Those that are consistently worried that their partners are cheating on them or may leave them may have serious attachment issues brought on by fear of being separated.

• Harsh Parenting – It's possible that some parents are suffering from a type of reverse-separation anxiety. These parents may be so worried that their children will leave them or hurt them that they become strict parents that try their best to control their children as best as they can. There is evidence that strict parenting has a lot to do with attachment, and that many strict parents are the ones with attachment issues – more so than the children.

• Unhealthy Relationships – It's also possible that separation anxiety plays a role in unhealthy relationships, including friendships. Often there are adults that stay in friendships and romantic relationships even when it's clear that the relationship is unhealthy. Why? Because it's possible that their separation anxiety makes them fear being alone, and they would rather withstand the emotional abuse than strike out as a single person.

And yes, it's also possible that adult separation anxiety manifests itself in other ways as well. Perhaps you find yourself too close a family member to the point where you damage your other relationships due to that closeness. Some adults may actually leech off their parents in such a way that they appear to be simply mooching, but in truth they simply have a fear of embarking out on their own without their parents around.

Finding Help for Adult Separation Anxiety

Whether you believe in the idea that adult separation anxiety should be a diagnosable mental health problem or not, these emotions do have an impact on the quality of your life, and the resulting anxiety you experience can lead to further anxiety disorder issues.

That is why it is generally recommended that anyone that feels they're showing signs of some type of separation anxiety symptoms should strongly consider therapy. Therapy will look at what lead to your attachment issues, and what could be a recurring, contributing factor in the reinforcement of these issues. Therapy will also look at how your upbringing may have led to the creation of these attachment issues, and whether or not you have a condition that adds to the severity.

Adult separation anxiety may not yet be a diagnosable problem on its own, but there's no denying that it affects the lives of millions of people all over the world. If you believe you may have adult separation anxiety, seeking out treatment is always your best course of action.
About the Author: Ryan Rivera had adult separation anxiety in addition to his own anxiety disorder issues. He writes about anxiety and stress at


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