A small degree of separation anxiety is normal in very young children, but after reaching the age of three most individuals are able to separate from loved ones with relative ease. When older children or adults show developmentally inappropriate and excessive anxiety about leaving home or being away from loved ones, and when this anxiety interferes with daily life, this may indicate the presence of separation anxiety disorder. Individuals with separation anxiety disorder have extreme difficulty being away from home or attachment figures and they try to avoid these separation situations. In children, these fears must last for a period of one month or longer, whereas in adults, the anxiety must last for six months or more.
Roughly 4% of children suffer with separation anxiety disorder, but regrettably only a small proportion of affected youth ever receive the professional help they need. Separation Anxiety Disorder in adults is a newly recognized diagnosis in the DSM-5. Although mild forms of separation anxiety dissipate with time, when an individual meets criteria for separation anxiety disorder, symptoms typically persist; in the absence of treatment the individual may be at increased risk for the development of other mood and anxiety problems.
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