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Separation Anxiety in Children

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What Is the Treatment for Separation Anxiety Disorder?

Most mild cases of separation anxiety disorder do not need medical treatment. In more severe cases, or when the child refuses to go to school, treatment may be needed. The goals of treatment include reducing anxiety in the child, developing a sense of security in the child and the caregivers, and educating the child and family/caregivers about the need for natural separations. Treatment options that may be used include:

  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy (''talking'' therapy) is the main treatment approach for separation anxiety disorder. The focus of therapy is to help the child tolerate being separated from the caregiver without the separation causing distress or interfering with function. A type of therapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy works to reshape the child's thinking (cognition) so that the child's behavior becomes more appropriate. Family therapy also may help teach the family about the disorder and help family members better support the child during periods of anxiety.
  • Medication:Antidepressant or other anti-anxiety medications may be used to treat severe cases of separation anxiety disorder.

What Is the Outlook for Children With Separation Anxiety Disorder?

Most children with separation anxiety disorder get better, although their symptoms may recur for many years, particularly when stressful events or situations occur. When treatment is started early and involves the family as well as the child, the child's chance of recovery improves.

Is There a Prevention for Separation Anxiety Disorder?

There is no known way to prevent separation anxiety disorder, but recognizing and acting on symptoms when they appear can minimize distress and prevent problems associated with not going to school. In addition, reinforcing a child's independence and self-esteem through support and approval may help prevent future episodes of anxiety.

 

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on May 22, 2012
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