Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder
The term “separation anxiety” is commonly referred to when discussing toddlers and young children, but did you know adults can experience this stressful feeling, too? Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder (ASAD) is rarely diagnosed because little emphasis has been placed on the disorder outside of the childhood range.
More women than men are affected by ASAD, which is thought to stem from failed attachment styles in childhood.
In 2006, the results of a national mental health survey (National Comorbidity Survey Replication) were compiled by Katherine Shear and her colleagues, who found that ASAD is actually more prevalent than Childhood Separation Anxiety Disorder.
In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was updated to say the age of onset does not have to be before 18 years, and a duration criterion of at least six months has been added, so it is easier to diagnose ASAD; but the diagnostic criteria generally remained the same.
As part of the update by the American Psychiatric Association, children of adults with ASAD were added to the list of major attachment figures and work was added, in addition to school, to the list of places where avoidance behaviors may occur.
Diagnostic Criteria for Separation Anxiety Disorder
- Recurrent excessive distress when separation from home or major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated
- Persistent and excessive worry about losing, or possible harm befalling, major attachment figures
- Persistent and excessive worry that an untoward event will lead to separation from a major attachment figure
- Persistent reluctance or refusal to go to school, or elsewhere, due to fear of separation
- Persistent and excessively fearful or reluctant to be alone, or without major attachment figures at home, or without significant adults in other settings
- Persistent reluctance or refusal to go to sleep without being near a major attachment figure, or to sleep away from home
- Repeated nightmares involving the theme of separation
- Repeated complaints of physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomach aches, nausea, and vomiting, when separation from major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated