Last updated:

June 10, 2024


 min read

Separation Anxiety in Adults: Symptoms, Treatments, & Coping Tricks

Discover the symptoms, treatments, and coping strategies for separation anxiety in adults to improve mental well-being and achieve a sense of stability.

Reviewed by
Kanika Shekhawat
Written by
Reshmithaa Nair


Have you ever felt that sinking feeling in your chest when you have to say goodbye to someone you love, even if it's just for a short while? That feeling is known as separation anxiety, and it's not just something that affects children – many adults also struggle with it. Whether it's leaving a partner for a work trip or saying goodbye to a friend moving away, separation anxiety can be a real challenge to deal with.

Understanding and addressing separation anxiety is crucial for maintaining mental health and achieving a sense of stability and well-being. Whether you are personally experiencing separation anxiety or supporting someone who is, this guide aims to offer valuable insights and tools for navigating this challenging condition.  Today, we'll explore what separation anxiety looks like in adults.


Adult separation anxiety can manifest in various ways, impacting daily life and relationships. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, defines separation anxiety as having many of the following symptoms:

1. Excessive Worry About Loved Ones

Adults with separation anxiety often have persistent and excessive worry about the safety and well-being of their loved ones when they are apart. This worry can be overwhelming and disproportionate to the actual risk.

2. Reluctance to Be Alone

There is often a strong reluctance or outright refusal to be alone. This can manifest as a constant need for company and significant distress when loved ones are not around.

3. Fear of Being Separated

A deep-seated fear of being separated from attachment figures is a hallmark symptom. This fear can lead to avoidance of situations that might lead to separation, such as travel or social engagements.

4. Physical Symptoms

Separation anxiety can trigger physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, dizziness, or palpitations. These symptoms often arise in anticipation of or during periods of separation.

5. Sleep Disturbances

Adults with separation anxiety may experience difficulties sleeping without their partner or loved one nearby. This can include insomnia, nightmares, or frequent waking during the night.

6. Overdependence on Communication

A compulsion to constantly check in with loved ones, whether through calls, texts, or social media, is common. This behavior is driven by the need to ensure their safety and maintain a sense of closeness.

7. Emotional Distress

Intense emotional reactions such as panic, anxiety, or depression can occur when separation is anticipated or occurs. This emotional distress can interfere with daily functioning and overall well-being.

8. Impaired Functioning

Separation anxiety can significantly impair daily functioning. This might include difficulties concentrating at work, maintaining social relationships, or carrying out everyday activities due to overwhelming fear and worry.

Of all the above symptoms, at least three indicate inappropriate and excessive anxiety when removed from whoever the individual is attached to. These disturbances can cause significant difficulty in major areas of life - academic, work, and daily life activities.

Treatment for Seperation Anxiety

According to the National Library of Medicine, 2023, separation anxiety in adults can be effectively managed through a variety of treatment approaches. Let us try to understand what these methods are - 

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

This is one of the most effective treatments for separation anxiety. The main focus lies identifying and challenging negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with anxiety. Key components of CBT for separation anxiety include - cognitive restructuring and behavioral techniques.

2. Exposure Therapy

This type of therapy gradually and systematically exposes individuals to the source of their anxiety in a controlled environment. The goal is to reduce fear and anxiety over time by increasing tolerance to the anxiety-inducing situation. Starting with a list of situations that cause anxiety that rank least to most distressing and then gradually exposing them to each situation working up the list while teaching and learning coping strategies.

3. Medication

In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help manage severe symptoms of separation anxiety. Common medications include:

  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are often used to treat anxiety disorders by increasing serotonin levels in the brain.
  • Benzodiazepines: Short-term use for acute anxiety relief, though these are less commonly prescribed due to potential dependency issues.
  • Beta-Blockers: Sometimes used to manage physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat.

4. Family Therapy

Family Therapy can be beneficial, especially if the anxiety affects family dynamics. This approach involves helping family members understand the anxiety and how to support the individual along with identifying and modifying patterns to the anxiety.

5. Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques

Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques can help manage the physical symptoms of anxiety and reduce overall stress levels. Techniques include: mindfulness meditation, breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation exercise.

6. Lifestyle Changes

Making certain lifestyle adjustments can also help manage separation anxiety:

  • Regular Exercise: Physical activity can reduce stress and anxiety levels.
  • Healthy Diet: Maintaining a balanced diet can improve overall mental health.
  • Sleep Hygiene: Ensuring good sleep habits can help manage anxiety symptoms.

Coping Strategies

Separation anxiety disorder can make you feel trapped in a pit of dread, anxiety, stress, and worry about situations and occurrences beyond your control. Constant worrying might result in lower energy and difficulty executing ordinary chores owing to the compulsive thoughts that cloud your head.

1. Declutter Your Environment and Mind

Clutter can impair your performance at home, work, school, or any other location. Removing clutter from your surroundings might improve your overall attitude. Decluttering your environment has been linked to lower stress levels and a more relaxed mood since a clean atmosphere is both motivating and relaxing. It can help reduce anxiety, and irritability through positive affirmations, and trying to cut off negativity from one’s mind can do wonders for oneself. 

2. Create a Safe Space

Create a physical or mental space where you feel safe and relaxed. This could be a cozy corner of your home, a favorite park, or a calming visualization you use during meditation. Having a safe space can provide comfort during times of high anxiety. 

3. Regular Physical Activity and Exercise

Studies have shown that physical activity and exercise are always the first step in reducing and preventing chronic physical and mental health issues. According to studies, just five minutes of aerobic exercise each day can have anti-stress and anti-anxiety effects, as well as reduce tension, promote better sleep, and improve mood. A major part of separation anxiety is worrying among adults. Even 10-15 minutes of exercies or any physical activity can bring about a change in one’s mood. 

4. Breathing exercises and meditation

Breathing exercises and meditation can help significantly reduce anxiety and tension. Studies show that different emotions correspond to distinct breathing patterns. For example, anxiety, fear, or rage are associated with harsh or irregular breathing, whereas happiness, calmness, and a relaxed mood are associated with regular and soft breathing.

Breathing exercises stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system by modifying your breathing rhythm. drop and regulated breathing causes the heart rate to drop down, reflecting a relaxed reaction from the parasympathetic nervous system. In other words, breathing exercises and meditation can help you relax and lessen worry. 

5. Routine and practicing self compassion

Creating a daily routine can provide a sense of stability and normalcy. Schedule regular activities like exercise, meals, work, and leisure time. A structured routine can help distract you from anxiety and provide a sense of control over your life. Journaling is a key component of mental health therapies for reducing anxiety, despair, and stress. Fortunately, keeping a journal is not difficult at all. Journaling has been shown to help reduce stress, anxiety, and distress, among other benefits.

Journaling is also an enjoyable activity that can boost your joy and happiness levels. Some techniques to keep and maintain a journal for stress relief include writing down your anxieties and problems, musing about them, processing them, figuring out potential solutions, comparing them to your strengths, and planning and preparing to work on them. Starting with just 15 minutes of journaling every day can help reduce anxiety related to separation anxiety disorder. 

6. Limit Alcohol and Caffeine

Both alcohol and caffeine can exacerbate anxiety. Try to limit your intake or avoid them altogether, especially during periods when your anxiety is heightened. 

7. Join Support Groups

Connecting with others who are experiencing similar feelings can be incredibly comforting. Support groups provide a safe space to share your experiences and learn from others. Many online communities are available if in-person groups aren’t an option.


Separation anxiety in adults can be a distressing and challenging experience, but understanding its symptoms and employing effective treatment and coping strategies can make a significant difference. Recognizing the signs of anxiety and taking proactive steps to manage it through professional help, staying connected, and engaging in self-care practices are essential.

By incorporating a structured routine, practicing mindfulness, staying active, and seeking support from friends, family, or support groups, you can build resilience and navigate through anxiety more effectively. Remember, it’s important to be patient with yourself and acknowledge that overcoming anxiety is a gradual process.

With the right approach, you can manage separation anxiety and continue to lead a fulfilling, balanced life. If you find yourself struggling, don't hesitate to reach out for professional assistance—help is available, and taking that step can lead to significant improvement in your well-being.

Struggling with separation anxiety? Contact Rocket Health today for professional support and personalized treatment plans to help you manage anxiety and improve your overall well-being.


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Bliese, P. D., Edwards, J. R., & Sonnentag, S. (2017). Stress and well-being at work: A century of empirical trends reflecting theoretical and societal influences. Journal of Applied Psychology, 102(3), 389-402. 

Mohatt, J., Bennett, S. M., & Walkup, J. T. (2014). Treatment of separation, generalized, and social anxiety disorders in youths. American Journal of Psychiatry, 171(7), 741-748.

Separation anxiety disorder - StatPearls - NCBI bookshelf. (2023, February 26). National Center for Biotechnology Information.