When children with Separation Anxiety are away from caregivers they can develop extreme fear.
A child with Separation Anxiety might have difficulty concentrating in class because of their fear that a parent will have a car accident. Sufferers might be worried that her family will get hurt, or they will get hurt, or even abandoned. If a parent is five minutes late for a designated pick-up, the child might assume the family has left town without them.
Mobile phone technology can exacerbate anxiety due to the expectation of nearly instantaneous communication. Many parents of children with SAD receive a continuous stream of text messages and phone calls expressing distress, fears, and concerns. These children suffer panic if the parent is unable to immediately answer the texts or calls.
Overattachment also persists at home, where children can “shadow” a parent from room to room. Some children fear being left alone upstairs or sleeping alone in their beds. They may insist on sharing their parent’s bed at night or crawl into bed with them overnight.
Adolescents may have a spike in separation anxiety when entering middle or high school. They usually come to realize that their peers will not accept acting-out behavior such as tantrums, so they begin to internalize their anxiety. While younger children generally become anxious at the moment of separation, older children can experience more anticipatory anxiety prior to or after the separation. This does not make it any less real or impactful, but it can make it harder to identify. Separation anxiety can often be intertwined with social phobia.