Have you ever struggled with having to say goodbye? Has the idea of being alone even for a few hours ever give you anxiety? Do you feel lost and scared when unattended for a long time? Many people in this world suffer from different types of anxiety and stress disorders. One of the most challenging ones is separation anxiety. The main issue is, society often dismisses this form of anxiety. Or, people do discuss it, it’s in the context of learning to manage separation anxiety in kids.
Adults must deal with this problem as best as possible. However, they can’t manage separation anxiety as deftly as youngsters. If you feel separated from loved ones will bring you immense pain and stress, don’t despair. Even though it’s hurtful, there are ways to manage separation to the point where it stops making you anxious.
What Is Separation Anxiety?
Separation Anxiety Disorder is precisely what it sounds like. It’s a psychological disorder where someone is afraid to be separated from a person, or sometimes even a pet or an object. Whether the anxiety arises when being separated for a few hours or more extended periods, that depends on the severity of the disorder.
The American Psychiatric Association has created a list of potential symptoms. Most are psychological, but some can be physical. People with separation anxiety feel unusual distress at the thought of being away from someone. They are afraid and feel excessive worry about being alone. They need to know where their loved ones are at all times and constantly worry about others being harmed if left unattended. The physical effects consist of headaches, nausea, and tiredness.
If someone experiences one or more of these symptoms, they are probably suffering from separation anxiety. Of course, some of these feelings can be felt even by people who don’t have this disorder. But they are short-lived feelings. If someone has to deal with these issues for more than six months, they can be diagnosed with the condition. These symptoms can vary in severity, in some cases even rendering the patient unable to function correctly. It can affect your social life, your work environment, and your academic capabilities.
The behaviors of people suffering from separation anxiety will tend to act in harmful ways. They might be controlling or overprotective. This action is just their way to try to alleviate their fears. That doesn’t mean their behaviors are justified; they aren’t. But they are a defense mechanism. If you want to help someone using this defense act in healthier ways, you have to help them address the root of the issue.
People who suffer from other mental disorders are at a higher risk of developing separation anxiety. OCD, phobias, and panic disorders are often co-existing conditions. In addition to that, a history of childhood traumatic events can play a detrimental role in developing this disorder. Specific significant life changes, such as going through a divorce or a child leaving home, can cause a person to develop separation anxiety.
Five Positive Ways To Manage Separation Anxiety
The American Journal of Psychiatry estimates that around 43% of people suffering from separation anxiety develop the condition after they turn 18. If dealing with this disorder is such a struggle, how are you supposed to learn to manage it?
1. Practice Goodbyes To Help Manage Separation Anxiety
At first glance, this might seem like vague and potentially unhelpful advice. How are you supposed to practice goodbyes on Earth, and how will that do anything to improve your situation? The trick is acclimating yourself to saying goodbye and spending time alone.
People dealing with separation anxiety tend to run from situations where they have to say goodbye at all costs. Rather than having a healthy separation, they prefer not to say goodbye at all. They prefer clinging to the people around them at all costs. Rather than being alone, they will do everything in their power to keep the people they love around them at all times. Or, if they inevitably have to be alone, they will not face the situation. Instead of saying goodbye, they will hide and avoid dealing with the reality of the problem. Thus, the separation will occur in an unhealthy way which will only stress them out more.
By practicing goodbyes, you will have to get used to being alone at times. Have moments where you are left to your own devices to get acquainted with how that feels. The more you are alone, the more normal it will become. As you practice, the feelings of anxiety will gradually decrease. Also, stop running away from moments where you have to say goodbye to someone. If your partner is going to be out for a couple of weeks, have a face-to-face conversation and wish them a healthy goodbye. This will act as a closure for both of you, and you will be able to go on with your life for the time they are away.
2. Manage Separation Anxiety By Getting Busy
The best way to deal with the stress associated with separation is to keep your mind occupied. When you’re struggling with anxiety, your mind is working on overdrive. It constantly creates worst-case scenarios that can have you spiraling and drowning in stress.
If your mind is sabotaging you, the worst thing you could do is letting your thoughts flow freely. So there’s no reason to do nothing and allow your brain to overthink everything. What you should do instead is keeping yourself busy.
When separated from someone, don’t just sit around. Even though it might be hard at first, try being productive. Don’t just passively watch TV. Instead, do something active that challenges your brain. Play a hobby that requires mental dedication, like chess. Those kinds of activities will occupy your mind, disallowing you to overthink and panic. Try doing some work. Maybe go through e-mails, do some paperwork, think about potential strategies for finishing a task. Whatever you can do that will require all your attention, do it. The less time you have to overthink, the fewer scenarios you will create, and the less you will worry.
3. Communicate With Loved Onescommunicate with others.
Let the people close to you know what you’re going through. Have discussions with them and set some guidelines for you should interact. If you get anxious when your partner doesn’t text you for hours on end, let them know how that makes you feel. Ask them you remember to keep you posted and give you updates every couple of hours so that you know they’re ok.
Your loved ones might unintentionally act in ways that worsen your anxiety. If you don’t make others aware of how their actions hurt you, nothing good will happen for either of you. By allowing people to hurt you unintentionally, the only thing you will accomplish is creating tension between you and them. To avoid that, be open and ask them to be gentler with you.
Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Reassurance and encouragement go a long way in making you feel more comfortable. Lean on people for emotional support and let them guide you through practices that allow you to lower your anxiety levels.
4. Maintain A Healthy Lifestyle
Separation anxiety has a lot to do with the stress levels you have to deal with daily. Though stress is mainly related to the emotional side of things, the physical side is also essential.
A healthy lifestyle can offset the heightened levels of cortisol your body releases when feeling anxious. Having a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, reducing caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine intake all go a long way in helping you. When feeling overly stressed and worried, take a break and get some sleep. Make sure you get a total of eight hours. If possible, increase physical activity. Maybe go on a run, or get a gym membership. Not only will this help your body be in the right state to manage anxiety, but working out will occupy your time.
When taking care of your body, remember to relax and have fun—schedule time in the day reserved for yourself. Try learning to enjoy being alone and allow yourself to relax. Take a calming bubble bath, read, do whatever makes you feel good. The more you take care of your body, the easier it will be to take care of your mind.
5. Go To Therapy To Help Manage Separation Anxiety
Separation Anxiety Disorder is not a joke. It is a severe mental issue that should be treated accordingly. Moreover, cognitive behavioral therapy might be required in extreme cases. The core principles of CBT are that psychological problems are at least partly based on unhelpful thought patterns or unhelpful behaviors that are learned.
CBT suggests that people dealing with psychological problems can improve coping strategies. CBT aims to get people to change their thinking patterns. A psychologist will work with clients dealing with anxiety to make sure the process goes smoothly. Besides CBT, psychologists suggest using psychotherapy and medication as ways to alleviate anxiety.
In more minor cases, you might not even need to contact a psychologist. A counselor could help you if your symptoms aren’t that acute. Remember, there’s no need to manage everything on your own. There’s no shame in struggling with mental issues. Counselors and psychologists can help you.
Separation anxiety in adults is a topic many people sweep under the rug. Not many people understand it, and they don’t know how it manifests or what victims of this disorder need. But it is a grave issue that someone must deal with accordingly. If not treated, it can develop into something that renders you incapable of living an everyday life.
To manage this disorder accordingly, you need to face your fears and practice separation. In moments when you feel anxiety taking over, keep yourself busy. Communicate your issues with people you love so that they can help and encourage you. Try to lead a healthy lifestyle to ensure that your stress levels stay as low as possible. And if you can’t deal with everything on your own, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. Some people might need counseling, therapy, and medication.
If you struggle with separation anxiety, know that you are not alone. Indeed, you will push through!