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The Informed Parent

Separation Anxiety Disorder

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Apr. 26, 2010

Distress upon separation from home or caretakers is a normal developmental feature in young children. However, in some cases it can become so extreme that children and adolescents may be limited in their independent activities. They may become unable to venture out alone, be far from home, or spend the night away from home. It may also progress to fear or distress upon attending school.

School refusal may take the form of stomachaches, headaches or extreme temper tantrums. Cognitive behavioral therapy and medication have been found to improve school attendance as well as out-of-home activities.

Separation anxiety disorder has a tremendous impact on the entire family. Parental involvement in treatment is very important. Positive benefits are noted when the family becomes strongly involved in the child’s treatment.  An improved outcome is seen when teachers and parents are involved in the treatment as compared to parents and teachers who are not involved. Short-term courses of medication may also be helpful in improving the outcome and returning to school.  See your pediatrician if you have further questions.

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