Separation Anxiety Disorder

Separation Anxiety Disorder (SAD) is characterized by a child’s extreme and persistent unwillingness to separate from a parent, caregiver, or home. While some anxiety upon separation is common among young children (e.g., at the start of a new school year, when being left with a new babysitter), to be diagnosed with SAD, these symptoms must persist for at least four weeks and must cause significant distress and interference.


  • When separated from important attachment figures (e.g., parents, primary caretakers), children with SAD often must know exactly where their loved ones are
  • Many children struggle to leave home or go to places without their parents, including school, camp, and friends’ houses
  • Children also may fear that they or their attachment figure will get sick or injured
  • Children often have a hard time sleeping alone and experience nightmares about separation

Children may experience physical symptoms during separation situations including:

  • Stomachaches
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sweating
  • Dizziness

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