Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) includes extreme anxiety (fear and nervousness) concerning separation from parents or loved ones. Although some amount of anxiety related to separating from parents is normal, children and teens with SAD react to separation with feelings and behaviors that are not considered normal for their age. Their sense of safety is highly dependent upon their parent being present. Children with SAD often have other fears as well, including fear of thieves and robbers, car accidents, the dark, or going places where they will be separated from their parents. Children and teens with SAD sometimes refuse to go to school. Symptoms must be present for at least one month for a child or teen to be diagnosed with SAD.
These are some of the most common symptoms of SAD in children:
At Children’s National, child psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals may interview the child or teen and his or her parents. We may have the patient and family fill out questionnaires about different aspects of the child’s or teen’s life, including physical health concerns, difficulties at school, or behavior with friends and family.
Following a full assessment, a member of the Children’s National care team will discuss treatment options with the child or teen and his or her family. Both cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT) and certain types of medicines are helpful in treating SAD in children and teens.
The Division of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Children’s National offers assessment, diagnosis, and care for children and teens with behavioral, emotional, and developmental disorders.
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The Child and Adolescent Anxiety Program (CAAP) at Children’s National is a specialized treatment clinic devoted to carefully assessing and effectively treating a wide range of anxiety disorders common among children and adolescents.
Crisis response, outreach and educational efforts were provided to schools, communities, and families throughout the region. These resources are intended to help families better understand child and adolescent stress responses and resiliency-building strategies to use with children so that they can better cope and heal from traumatic events.