Separation Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis

(Also Known As: Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis, Separation Anxiety Diagnosis, Anxiety Diagnosis, Child Anxiety Disorder Diagnosis)

(Reviewed by: Paul Peterson, Licensed Therapist)

How is Separation Anxiety Disorder Diagnosed?

Determining a diagnosis of separation anxiety disorder should be viewed in the context of developmental stages. For instance, it is a normal reaction for a one year child to feel excessively distressed when apart from their caregivers. Likewise, it is a usual reaction of a child entering daycare, preschool, or kindergarten for the first time to be extremely distressed when separated from their caregivers. 7

According to DSM-IV-TR, a diagnosis of separation anxiety disorder can be made if at least three of the following symptoms are manifested by the child:

  • The child is worried over the potential loss of the primary caregiver in the absence of reasonable proof which indicates that separation is likely.
  • The child is afraid to leave home and familiar surroundings, which is evident when the child is accompanied by their caretaker during the trip.
  • Reluctance to do things which will lead to the separation with their caregivers
  • Fear to do things by themselves without the supervision of their caregivers.
  • Tendency to cling or shadow the caregiver throughout the day instead of playing on their own
  • Has trouble separating themselves from their caregivers during bedtime. Most of the time, they would want their caregiver to be with them until they fall asleep.
  • Physical symptoms, such as nausea, abdominal pains, or headache, when separated or when thinking about being apart from their caregivers.
  • Persistent nightmares about separation from their primary caregivers.

DSM-IV-TR also requires that, in order for the condition to be diagnosed as a disorder, the duration of the symptoms must be for at least four weeks. Separation anxiety disorder has its onset before the child reaches 18 years old. There is early onset when the disorder takes place before six years old.

The diagnosis of separation anxiety disorder is based on an interview conducted by mental health professionals involving both the parent and the child. While it is preferred for the interview to be conducted separately, it may not be possible because of the child’s anxiety about being away from their parents.

Could You Have Separation Anxiety Disorder?

Separation Anxiety Disorder Topics

Related Conditions

Anxiety Disorder NOS – pathological fears, anxiousness, stress, exhaustion
Dependent Personality Disorder – psychological dependence on others, submissiveness, dependency
Generalized Anxiety Disorder – irrational worry, anxiety, depression, excessive anxiousness
Social Anxiety Disorder – social phobia, fear of humiliation or embarrassment, abnormal distress, chronic fear