What is separation anxiety?
Separation anxiety is a normal part of child development. Most children go through bouts of separation anxiety between the ages of 18 months and 3 years, and these feelings will pass as the child grows older.
During these times, kids will often cry and cling to their parents. Eventually, they will realize that their parents will always be there when they come back.
If your child's separation anxiety becomes too severe, seek professional help. Treatment options include talk therapy and medication, such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
Early diagnosis can help reduce symptoms and prevent your child from getting worse. It is also important to communicate with teachers and other adults about your child's anxiety so that they can support your child in coping with their symptoms.
What are the signs of separation anxiety?
If your dog is pacing, barking or howling, chewing, digging and trying to escape when you leave him alone, he might have separation anxiety. If you suspect your dog has this problem, it's a good idea to check with your veterinarian.
Often times, dogs who have a history of trauma in their past or who were adopted from an animal shelter are more prone to separation anxiety than those who were raised with their family for years.
You can help alleviate some of your dog's stress by reducing the number of cues that lead to your departure, such as picking up keys and putting on your coat. If you do this several times a day, you can reduce your dog's anxiety levels and encourage them to relax.
Using a crate to confine your dog while you are away can also work for some dogs. However, crates should be used with caution for dogs with separation anxiety and should not be used until they have been thoroughly retrained to accept being in a crate.
What are the symptoms of separation anxiety?
Dogs with separation anxiety often display distress behaviors such as barking, whining, and howling within a short time after their owners leave the house. Some dogs even urinate or defecate in the house when their owners are away.
If your dog has this problem, be sure to talk to a veterinarian about the issue. They may recommend blood work and diagnostic imaging to rule out any medical problems that could be the cause of the behavior.
A doctor who specializes in canine behavior can also provide behavioral advice to help your dog overcome separation anxiety. However, the advice must be clear and consistent to be effective.
Some dogs are less likely to develop separation anxiety if they are physically active and get regular exercise and training. Routine exercise and training give structure to their lives. Discouraging needy behaviors such as excessive scratching or trying to get attention can also reduce separation anxiety symptoms.
What are the treatments for separation anxiety?
Treatment for separation anxiety depends on the cause and severity of symptoms. It usually involves medication, psychological therapy, or a combination of both.
A therapist teaches your child to cope with their fears and help them learn how to avoid or overcome their worries. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a good choice for children who are experiencing severe symptoms of separation anxiety.
The first step is to pinpoint the causes of your child's separation anxiety. It may be linked to a traumatic experience, such as a divorce or a move. It could also be related to genetics or a history of anxiety disorders in a family member.
If you think your child has a separation anxiety disorder, talk to their pediatrician or other health care provider. He or she may refer you to a child psychologist or psychiatrist with expertise in treating anxiety disorders.