By Dr. Murray Feingold
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Most people are aware of the separation anxiety that children may undergo when their mother or father go out for the evening or just leave the house for a short period of time. Tears start flowing and loud, shrieking cries emanate from the youngster who just minutes previously was happy playing with one of his or her toys.
This is not to mention the guilt felt by mommy or daddy as they look forward to a quiet night out. By the time they reach their destination (or sooner), the cell phone is out to call the baby sitter to determine if their precious offspring has stopped crying. The answer to this question may determine if they will enjoy their long-awaited respite from the little one(s).
Not as well known, but equally common, is Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder or ASAD. In this disorder, an adult exhibits an inappropriate, excessive and persistent amount of worry when they are separated from a loved one or someone they are closely attached to. The affected adult worries they may lose, or harm will come to, those who are close to them. They may have nightmares that such a scenario will take place and this frequently results in them not wanting to go to sleep.
Many times they become overly clingy, and this can become very taxing and bothersome to the loved one.
Most individuals who have ASAD did not experience separation anxiety as children. More women than men are affected.
Adult Separation Anxiety Disorder may also be present in other conditions. A recent study found that 50 percent of patients diagnosed as having a panic disorder also have ASAD.
The researchers believe that ASAD is not related to agoraphobia, another type of anxiety disorder. In this condition, individuals are very fearful and anxious when they are in locations or places where it is difficult to escape or where no help is available.
Separation Anxiety Disorder may be difficult to treat, however, it is essential that affected individuals seek psychological help because it can be debilitating, not only to the patient, but also to the family.
Massachusetts-based Dr. Murray Feingold is the physician in chief of The Feingold Center for Children, medical editor of WBZ-TV and WBZ radio, and president of the Genesis Fund. The Genesis Fund is a nonprofit organization that funds the care of children born with birth defects, mental retardation and genetic diseases.