Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation anxiety disorder is an excessive fear or anxiety concerning separation from home or attachment figures. The anxiety exceeds what is expected at the person's given developmental level.

Criterion A

Developmentally inappropriate and excessive fear or anxiety concerning separation from those to whom the individual is attached, as evidenced by at least 3 of the following:

  1. Recurrent excessive distress when anticipating or experiencing separation from home or from major attachment figures.
  2. Persistent and excessive worry about losing major attachment figures or about pos sible harm to them, such as illness, injury, disasters, or death.
  3. Persistent and excessive worry about experiencing an untoward event (e.g., getting lost, being kidnapped, having an accident, becoming ill) that causes separation from a major attachment figure.
  4. Persistent reluctance or refusal to go out, away from home, to school, to work, or elsewhere because of fear of separation.
  5. Persistent and excessive fear of or reluctance about being alone or without major attachment figures at home or in other settings.
  6. Persistent reluctance or refusal to sleep away from home or to go to sleep without being near a major attachment figure.
  7. Repeated nightmares involving the theme of separation.
  8. Repeated complaints of physical symptoms (e.g., headaches, stomachaches, nausea, vomiting) when separation from major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated.
Criterion B

The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, lasting at least 4 weeks in children and adolescents and typically 6 months or more in adults.

Criterion C

The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, academic, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

Criterion D

The disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder, such as:

  • Refusing to leave home because of excessive resistance to change in autism spectrum disorder
  • Delusions or hallucinations concerning separation in psychotic disorders
  • Refusal to go outside without a trusted companion in agoraphobia
  • Worries about ill health or other harm befalling significant others in generalized anxiety disorder
  • Concerns about having an illness in illness anxiety disorder

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