A to Z: Separation Anxiety Disorder
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A to Z: Separation Anxiety Disorder

A to Z: Separation Anxiety Disorder

Kids with separation anxiety disorder feel anxious when they are away from home or apart from family members. Kids with separation anxiety disorder often worry that something bad will happen to them or their family. 

More to Know

Babies and toddlers naturally feel most comfortable with the people they know best. They often get upset when parents try to leave them with a babysitter or someone else. This is a known as separation anxiety. It usually goes away on its own by the time kids are about 2 or 3 years old. Many children also feel separation anxiety during the first few days of preschool. 

Sometimes separation anxiety lasts into preschool, elementary school, or beyond. When this happens and it's bad enough to get in the way of a child's daily activities, it can be a sign of a more serious condition known as separation anxiety disorder.

Kids with separation anxiety disorder might:

  • get so upset before a parent leaves that they feel sick, throw up, or have panic attacks 
  • refuse to go to school, or have poor school attendance
  • be extremely afraid of sleeping alone
  • be very clingy toward a parent
  • have trouble staying at sleepovers or play dates away from home

Kids with separation anxiety disorder often need therapy to get better. 

Keep in Mind

For most young children, the worry of being separated from a parent passes without any need for medical attention. But if you have concerns, talk to your doctor.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.