What Is Separation Anxiety? 6 Signs of Separation Anxiety & How To Overcome It
Signs of separation anxiety are common among infants and toddlers. Young kids during their growing years need the assurance of safety and security from their parents and primary caregivers. Children usually outgrow the separation anxiety as they develop.
However, sometimes the signs of separation anxiety remain unresolved and can manifest itself in adult relationships. It can take a serious negative toll on your relationships and if it is remain unchecked can become toxic and deprive you of healthy and loving relationships.
Taking therapy can help you to understand the signs of separation anxiety, work on the root causes of it and gradually learn how to grow around and manage the anxiety in better ways.
Table of Content
1. What Is Separation Anxiety
2. Signs of Separation Anxiety
3. Causes of Separation Anxiety
4. Challenge The Fearful Thoughts
5. Mindfulness Practices To Beat Separation Anxiety
6. Set Boundaries & Communicate Effectively With Your Partner
8. When To Seek Therapy & How Can It Help You
What Is Separation Anxiety?
I would get panic attacks every time my partner’s phone would come unavailable. A thousand thoughts would interrupt my mind and I sat frozen in one place thinking about all the worst case scenarios that could happen.
Is he tired of me?
Is he cheating?
What if he is intentionally trying to avoid me?
I remember this one time I threw my phone out of anger because my partner was online and did not reply. In retrospect and after adequate therapy I understood that it was actually separation anxiety getting the best of me.
Binita showcased typical signs of separation anxiety including an intense fear of abandonment followed by compulsive actions. Separation anxiety can seriously cloud your judgement and make you act out of fear and impulsiveness.
Let’s take a look at 13 signs of separation anxiety in adult relationships:
1. Excessive distress over losing your relationship
You find yourself feeling stressed out about every little thing that could go wrong in the relationship. The stress increases even more when there is physical distance between you and your partner.
2. You pay attention to every detail
One of the subtle signs of separation anxiety is being highly observant of your partner’s behavior. This is because when you are anxious your mind switches to ‘alert mode; and scans every possible threat or danger. So even a change of tone or not sending the the usual good morning texts can set you off.
3. Extreme need to be close to your partner
Individuals with separation anxiety can have an incredibly hard time being in a long-distance relationship. The distance can be a serious trigger for anxious and fearful thoughts. Being close to your partner gives you the assurance that nothing could go wrong since they are near you. However this pattern of thinking could be one of the signs of separation anxiety.
4. It is more than just ‘missing’ your partner
Missing your partner is a healthy sign of a relationship. However when you feel intense restlessness, uneasiness and just cannot stop thinking about what, where, and how your partner may be doing then it could be signs of separation anxiety.
5. It affects your social and personal life
Individuals with separation anxiety often find themselves preoccupied with fearful thoughts. The constant anxiety about losing your partner can drain your energy and force you to neglect your social and personal life. You end up giving most of your time, energy and efforts into your relationship in the fear that if you don’t give enough your partner could leave you.
6. Feelings of guilt and stress when you are away from them
When you have separation anxiety you constantly worry that something could harm your partner or take you away from them. This fear can make you feel guilty every time you are away from your partner because somewhere you feel responsible for your partner’s well-being.
These are some of the common signs of separation anxiety that you need to look out for. If you are able to relate to any of these signs of separation anxiety then increasing your self-awareness and seeking professional help can actually help you to overcome the high anxiety that comes with relationships.
What Causes Separation Anxiety?
Existing Mental Health Conditions
A Research article published in Personality & Mental Health Journal showed that a strong link between OCD and Separation anxiety. Individuals with existing mental health concerns such as fears or phobia, generalized anxiety disorder are more prone to showing signs of separation anxiety.
The major risk factor of separation anxiety is having unpleasant or unhealthy relationship with parents or primary caregivers. Children who face abuse, neglect, a hot-and-cold treatment from any of the parental figure tend to carry the anxiety in their adult relationships as well.
Those who show traits of dependent personality such as submissiveness, low self-confidence, indecisiveness are more likely to develop adult separation anxiety disorder.
Therapy can give you the space to understand these traits and work on building your strengths. The more self-confident and self-reliant you become, the lesser these fears will affect you.
Sudden Loss or Life Stressors
Generally separation anxiety is carried from unpleasant childhood memories. However, a person can develop separation anxiety later in life due to sudden loss of a loved one or stressful life events. These changes impact your belief systems and shakes your core and a deep sense of fear and anxiety creeps into your heart.
Understand and identifying the causes and triggers of separation anxiety can help you to do the actual inner work and overcome separation anxiety from its roots. It increases mindfulness so you can take the necessary steps as as soon as you notice the first signs of separation anxiety.
There is no doubt that separation anxiety can drain you out and stop you from having healthy and loving relationships. It can force you to act in erratic and self-sabotaging tendencies that eventually take a toll on the relationship you share with your partners.
Here are 4 Powerful ways to manage separation anxiety and gradually overcome the intense fears.
1. Challenge The Fearful Thoughts
Separation Anxiety can lead to many thoughts that are based in fear of the future. You can tend to think of the worst case scenarios that may never happen at all.
Challenging the negative and fearful thoughts will gradually change the deeply rooted pathways of thinking and feeling.
I had pretty intense separation anxiety. I had to talk to my partner in every two hours otherwise my mind would wander off to negative thoughts. It was getting suffocated for me and for my partner. I wanted to feel at ease and trust him but I just could not.
My therapist encouraged me to challenge these thoughts. For example whenever I would think, “what if my partner wants to leave me?” I would look for facts and evidence that backed up this statement. So far every time I have had this thought I was proven wrong.
A lot of times these thoughts are irritational and not based in reality. When we challenge these thoughts we encourage our mind to take alternative perspectives which can really help to beat separation anxiety.
2. Mindfulness Practices To Beat The Signs of Separation Anxiety
Being mindful is the best thing you can do for yourself. When you are mindful about your present situations you are less likely to become anxious about the future or let the thoughts of past bother you too much.
There are many different mindfulness practices that can help you regain control over your thoughts and stay calm even in the face of triggers.
The aim of practicing mindfulness exercises is to train your mind on how to stay calm and relaxed. The relaxed state of mind can challenge negative thoughts and replace them with more positive ones since you have more mental energy to do so.
3. Set Boundaries & Communicate With Your Partner
Anxiety in relationship can make you see your partner in a negative light. It can shut you off and cause you to act in irrational and impulsive ways that ultimately lead to negative outcomes. These negative outcomes confirm your negative beliefs and gets you stuck in a toxic loop.
Communicating your feelings and thoughts to your partner instead of suppressing them or getting passive aggressive can do wonders for your relationship and ease signs of separation anxiety.
Moreover, understand your own expectations, wants and desires from the relationship. It is possible that some things may just not be okay with you. For instance, if you feel anxious when your partner ignores your calls then let them know that they can at least drop a text and let you know. Setting boundaries can make you feel more self-assured and protect you from the pangs of separation anxiety.
4. Heal Your Inner Child
The most effective step to beat the signs of separation anxiety and attract meaningful relationships is to heal the wounds of your inner child.
Separation anxiety can be a by product of childhood memories that were unpleasant and unhappy. The neglect from parents and constant fight to seek their approval and love can tremendously impact your self-esteem and increase your risk for separation anxiety.
Healing your inner child can heal these past wounds and relieve you from anxiety once and for all.
When To Seek Therapy & How Can It Help?
People go for therapy only after the signs of separation anxiety become unbearable or they lose out on valuable and precious connections. However, taking therapy on time can actually help you to retain the relationship you share with your partner and create a more meaningful and nourishing connection between you and your partner.
If and when you begin to notice the signs of separation anxiety talk to a therapist. A therapist can help you to navigate your feelings and thoughts in a much safe and unbiased manner.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy & Acceptance Commitment Therapy has proven to be highly beneficial in overcoming the challenges of separation anxiety. Therapy helps you to develop a stronger mindset, boost your confidence levels, challenge your unhealthy thoughts and create healthy coping strategies.