Adults Feel Separation Anxiety Too

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Adults Feel Separation Anxiety Too

Adults not only children can acquire anxiety from their interpersonal relationships / Photo by


Children are known to feel intense anxiousness when separated from their caregiver or their parent. They often feel abandoned even if their parents just left them for a short while, which is a natural result of a stable attachment with their parents. Lately, it has been discovered that adults can acquire this kind of anxiety, not with their parents, but with their other interpersonal relationships.

Before 2013, separation anxiety was a type of anxiety that was diagnosed only in children. However, there have been recent studies that expose that adults may also suffer separation anxiety from being apart from certain attachment figures too.

A research shows that 45% of lifetime separation anxiety symptoms appear in adulthood without prior manifestation in their childhood years. There is another study that estimates that one percent to two percent of adults are affected by separation anxiety. Additionally, it has been found that adults who have separation anxiety have inherited it. It is reported that 73% of adults who suffer from this condition have it as part of their genetics.



According to, separation anxiety is a psychological condition wherein the person feels intense anxiety when they are separated from people or places they have an emotional attachment to. For children, they may be extremely attached to their parent or primary caregiver. In adults, this extreme attachment can be with a lover or a friend.

Individuals who have adult separation anxiety are constantly clingy, needy and have excessive drama in their life. This kind of anxiety may make it difficult for them to form stable relationships because most partners would not be able to bear with it.



How Does It Manifest In Adults?

Separation anxiety in adults can manifest itself in many ways. In its extreme form, it may be easy to identify. If a person cannot be away from the person they are so attached to without having a panic attack, then it is evidence that they suffering from it.

However, there are some lighter ways in which it can manifest that may not be pointed out so quickly. Calm Clinic guides people on how to determine these signs:

1. Being extremely jealous

An individual may become more suspicious because they subconsciously fear that they may abandon them. This is all the more proven that when jealousy is followed by anxious thoughts, like being afraid of being alone or worrying about their partner being unfaithful towards them.

2. Being too strict as a parent

This is also called “reverse separation anxiety” wherein the parents are so worried about the possibility that their children will leave them behind. As a result of this, they become excessively controlling over the child’s life.

3. Being stuck in relationships

Adults who suffer from separation anxiety may have a tendency to stay in bad relationships, whether friendly or romantic, as a result of being too attached. Even though it is negatively affecting their mental and physical health, they may not want to part from that person because the thought of detaching from them causes them anxiety.

4. Mooching/overstaying

People who never seem to be able to be away from their parents or friends and appear constantly upset over the lack of communication may actually be having separation anxiety.


Symptoms of Adult Separation Anxiety

These are the symptoms that will show if an adult has separation anxiety, according to Medical News Today:

1. Unusual distress when separated from person or pet

2. Being too worried about a person being harmed if left by themselves

3. Being too afraid of being alone

4. Having the need to constantly check where their loved one is at all times

5. Being too worried about being alone




The Shaker Clinic states that these may be the factors that may cause an adult to feel this form of anxiety:

1. Genetic

It is indicated that adult separation anxiety can be inherited. If there is a record of any of their relatives suffering from this kind of anxiety or other mental health disorders, they are likely to acquire it.

2. Physical

There are studies that show that those who suffer from this condition have chemical imbalances in the brain. The neurotransmitters that are designed control their mood and impulses cannot be regulated in those who have anxiety symptoms. Due to the imbalance of the chemicals, an individual’s stress response is blocked. This can cause them to be aggravated to minor triggers or perceived fear or danger.

3. Environmental

Having a sudden life stressing circumstance, such as being separated from their significant other, relative or child can cause them to develop separation anxiety disorder. A sudden death in the family, being away from their loved ones as an aftermath of a disaster or being forced to be separated from their caregivers can be examples of these situations.

Research shows that women who have a repeated history of codependent romantic relationships can make symptoms start to appear if they are unable to adjust to the absence of their lover.



The destructive effects of having adult separation anxiety are:

1. Social Isolation

2. Being unable to have a stable job

3. Having financial problems

4. Heightened problems with interpersonal relationships

5. Acquiring another mental health condition

6. Getting addicted to drugs or engaging in substance abuse

7. Thoughts of suicide

8. Attempts of suicide

If the symptoms of anxiety have become too severe, they must immediately consult a mental health professional.



Adults who desire to recover from the feeling of excessive anxiousness from being separated from someone or something their attached need to seek professional help. Here are some suggested methods to be able to treat their Adult Separation Anxiety:

1. Treating other anxiety symptoms

Addressing the anxiety symptoms first can be a great help the patient. It would be even better if they are able to clearly identify their symptoms.

The symptoms of adult separation anxiety are noted to be similar to OCD. Some patients even suffer anxiety attacks when they are by themselves.

2. Childhood separation procedures

Two therapies are recommended under this procedure: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and systematic desensitization. Both treatments that are used on children are also found to be effective in the treatment of adults as well. Under these therapies, they will be taught that having some alone time can be calming and can have a good effect on their mental health.

In addition, the therapists may prescribe medication and teach them how to apply relaxation strategies.

3. Support groups

Being part of a support group can help offer them social connections apart from the person they have developed an extreme attachment to.


Support group can help offer social connections to person who have developed an extreme attachment / Photo by


Unfortunately, even though adult separation anxiety is officially listed as an adult anxiety disorder in the fifth edition of the  Diagnostics and Statistical (DSM-5), there are still a number of psychologists who are still reluctant to diagnose it in adults. This may have been a product of the long-held onto the concept that separation anxiety is a disorder which is confined to children. This is seen to be quite a hindrance in finding treatments specifically targeting this condition.

Despite this, if the individual affected by adult separation anxiety seeks professional help and is able to get effective and appropriate treatment, they will be less likely to suffer its negative consequences.



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