Brain Facts

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Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety disorder almost always occurs in children. It is suspected in children who are excessively anxious about separation from important family members or from home. For a diagnosis of separation anxiety disorder, the child should also exhibit at least three of the following symptoms for at least 4 weeks:

- Extreme distress from either anticipating or actually being away from home or being separated from a parent or other loved one

- Extreme worry about losing or about possible harm befalling a loved one

- Intense worry about getting lost, being kidnapped, or otherwise separated from loved ones

- Frequent refusal to go to school or to sleep away from home

- Physical symptoms such as headache, stomach ache, or even vomiting, when faced with separation from loved ones

Separation anxiety often disappears as the child grows older, but if not addressed, it may lead to panic disorder, agoraphobia, or combinations of anxiety disorders.

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