Teenage separation anxiety is not as common as separation anxiety in younger children, however,it does exist.
Most cases of teenage separation anxiety have an earlier onset that went undiagnosed. The DSM IV states that the onset of separation anxiety must be prior to 18, but some recent case studies suggest there are some teens and young adults that have all the symptoms and a later onset.
Teens with separation anxiety:
Avoid being alone away from the person they are attached to
May be preoccupied with being separated from a loved one
May worry about someone they care about being harmed
May worry about some event occurring which may cause separation from their loved one
May want to stay by the loved ones side and be resistant to situations which cause them to be separated from the person they are attached to.
You can imagine how disruptive this could be to a teens life! Not only may these feelings prevent them from going to school, but from working, having normal social and peer relationships, and accomplishing the tasks of normal adolescents.
Adolescence is a time when children separate from their parents and define their individuality, and they come to identify more with their peers that their family. Separation anxiety can disrupt this entire process and prevent the normal development necessary for teens to become happy fulfilled and productive adults.
Panic Disorder, Social Phobia, or Separation Anxiety
It may be that panic disorder or social anxiety is confused with separation anxiety and so it is important that the teen’s anxiety is actually a result of fear of being separated from an attachment figure for that diagnosis to be made. Regardless of the actual diagnosis, a teen experiencing anxiety which is interfering in their ability to be successful in any arena of their life needs help!
Treatment for separation anxiety in teens consists of:
Cognitive Behavior Therapy
To change the unhealthy thinking that contributes to anxiety, the teenager is helped to recognize the thoughts driving the anxiety, and learn how to interfere in that cycle by changing those thoughts. Other techniques would be taught to help the teen cope with and manage that anxiety.
Relaxation/ Systematic Desensitization
The teen is taught how to relax physically while imagining the fearful situations that cause them so much stress thus aiding in the decrease of the anxiety. This is called systematic desensitization.
The teen is encouraged with the help of the family to gradually face and conquer the fears that are preventing them from enjoying a normal life.
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