Separation Anxiety: Symptoms & Signs

Medically Reviewed on 8/18/2020

Separation anxiety is a condition in which children have an unusual fear or discomfort when apart from parents or caregivers. It starts in childhood and is characterized by worrying that is out of proportion to the situation of temporarily leaving home or otherwise separating from loved ones. Around 4%-5% of children and adolescents suffer from separation anxiety disorder.

Signs and symptoms associated with separation anxiety include

  • worry that something bad will happen to a loved one,
  • refusal to go to school,
  • reluctance to go to sleep,
  • headache,
  • stomachache, or
  • other physical and emotional symptoms.

Clinging to the caregiver, crying, tantrums, and other behavioral symptoms may be present.

Cause of separation anxiety

Doctors do not understand the cause of separation anxiety, and it is likely a result of both genetics and environmental factors.

Other separation anxiety symptoms and signs


A Visual Guide to Generalized Anxiety Disorder See Slideshow

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Jameson, J. Larry, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 20th Ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2018.