My Anxiety Plan for Separation Anxiety
The following strategies are designed for you to use as you begin to tackle Separation Anxiety Disorder. These strategies are best used for adults with mild-moderate signs of this type of anxiety. For individuals with more severe symptoms or who have been diagnosed with Separation Anxiety Disorder, we recommend treatment with a mental health professional, although MAP strategies can be used at home to support your therapy work.
Step 1. Helping you become an expert on anxiety
This is an important first step, as the information outlined in this step can help you understand what is happening when you experience anxiety. Learning that the worries and physical feelings you are experiencing have a name -anxiety- and that millions of other people also have anxiety, can be a great relief. To become an expert on anxiety you will want to read about the facts and learn important information. In addition, you might find it helpful to start to track your own symptoms to better understand the physical, cognitive, and behavioural parts to your type of anxiety and how this affects you. Please view the following links: ABC's of Anxiety: Understanding How Anxiety Works & Anxiety 101: What You Need to Know About Anxiety & Anxiety 102: More Facts & Fight-Flight-Freeze & When Anxiety Becomes a Problem: What’s Normal and What's Not
Step 2: Learning the facts about Separation Anxiety Disorder
Reading about the information outlined on the separation anxiety disorder main page can help you feel less afraid of what is happening to you. After all, knowledge is power.
The following list includes some facts and highlights common to individuals with Separation Anxiety Disorder:
- Separation anxiety disorder was once believed only to effect children and adolescents, but we now know adults of all ages can struggle with this type of anxiety disorder.
- Separation anxiety occurs when the individual is extremely anxious about being away from a close “attachment figure.” Attachment figures are typically a close blood relative, a spouse or intimate partner, or roommate.
- People with separation anxiety worry excessively and uncontrollably about possible or expected separations from their loved one, believing that they will be unable to cope when apart. As a result, their daily functioning can be significantly impacted (e.g. unable to leave the home, go to work, etc.).
- These separations are usually routine and can be short (i.e. several hours long) or extended (i.e. days or weeks). Examples include a boyfriend going out for a “guy’s night,” a parent or roommate staying late at work, or a partner traveling for business.
Step 3: Creating your Separation Anxiety Disorder MAP
The best way to help deal with separation anxiety disorder, is to have access to tools that can evaluate and challenge your worries and change your problem behaviours. These tools are intended to increase your ability to tolerate anxiety, rather than to eliminate anxiety. Anxiety exists everywhere, and therefore it is an illusion to believe we can eliminate the source and experience of anxiety. It is far more effective to have tools to tolerate and cope, rather than to control and escape. For separation anxiety, you might want to use any or all of the following tools to create your My Anxiety Plan (MAP). These tools are listed in a recommended order, although proceeding in this order will depend on your needs and interests. There are many effective tools in this section, although Facing My Fears, and, Helpful Thinking will be two of the most useful tools to provide you with much needed relief from your worry.
- Calm Breathing
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Helpful Thinking
- Challenging Negative Thinking
- Cognitive Coping Cards
- Facing Your Fears: Exposure
- Reassurance Seeking
- Relapse Prevention
- Rewarding Bravery
- Tolerating Uncertainty
Final point: Although increased knowledge and the many tools available on this website can be very effective in helping you to manage your separation anxiety, sometimes it is not enough. Some adults have very severe anxiety, and despite all their best efforts, they might still be struggling daily with anxiety symptoms. If this is the case for you, we recommend you seek professional help through a consultation session with your family doctor, psychiatrist, or a psychologist/mental health worker.