Seeking expert counseling is a sign of strength. A personal relationship with a caring professional is proven clinically effective.
Dear concerned aunt/sister,
Your nephew is exhibiting the classic symptoms of Separation Anxiety Disorder. Here are the diagnostic criteria according to the DSM-IV TR, official manual of the American Psychiatric Association:
A. Developmentally inappropriate and excessive anxiety concerning separation from home or from those to whom the individual is attached, as evidenced by three (or more) of the following:
· recurrent excessive distress when separation from home or major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated
· persistent and excessive worry about losing, or about possible harm befalling, major attachment figures
· persistent and excessive worry that an untoward event will lead to separation from a major attachment figure (e.g. getting lost or kidnapped)
· reluctance or refusal to go to school or elsewhere because of fear of separation
· persistently and excessively fearful or reluctant to be alone or without major attachment figures at home or without significant adults in other settings
· persistent reluctance or refusal to go to sleep without being near a major attachment figure or to sleep away from home
· repeated nightmares
involving the theme of separation
· repeated complaints of physical symptoms (such as headaches, stomachaches, nausea, or vomiting) when separation from major attachment figures occurs or is anticipated
B. The duration of the disturbance is at least 4 weeks.
C. The onset is before age 18 years.
D. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, academic (occupational), or other important areas of functioning.
E. The disturbance does not occur exclusively during the course of a Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Schizophrenia
, or other Psychotic Disorder and, in adolescents and adults, is not better accounted for by Panic
Disorder With Agoraphobia
Early Onset: if onset occurs before age 6 years
This disorder is treatable with psychotherapy and a competent child psychologist should be sought. This should not be treated with drugs. The best approach is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, clinically proven effective The treatment for children and adolescents is usually short-term and focuses on teaching the children and their parents specific skills linking behavior and emotions.
Though not a substitute for a skilled therapist, I recommend the following book:Helping Your Child Overcome Separation Anxiety or School Refusal: A Step-by-Step Guide for Parents
by Andrew R. Eisen, Linda B. Engler and Joshua Sparrow
I hope that this information proves helpful.
Elliott Sewell, LPCC, NCC, CCMHC