Treatment for separation anxiety disorder is often a combination of psychotherapy, both individual for the child and family therapy, medication, and education about the disorder, its course, skills for helping child, etc. Cognitive behavioral therapy will help your child withbehavioral techniques that include systematic desensitization, teaching you the principles behind positive reinforcement, and exposure therapy. A cognitive therapist will work on helping your child to adjust and adapt to the feared situations through changes in thought patterns and behaviors. Psychodynamic psychotherapy can help your child work through feelings, become aware of his reactions, and set out a plan to make positive changes. Family therapy will help family members become aware of dysfunctional patterns of communication and behavior and learn ways to guide the child to independence as well as learning how to communicate and express emotion in healthy ways.
Medications most likely prescribed for separation anxiety disorder are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), such as paroxetine (Paxil) and venlafaxine (Effexor), have been shown to be effective in reducing symptoms of separation anxiety disorder, but they do not have approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for children under twelve years of age. And recent warnings have been posted that SSRIs may cause an increased risk in suicidal ideation in children and adolescents. Benzodiazepines such as Xanax have been used to treat children, but for no more than two to three weeks due to side effects and possibility of addiction.
Helping your child cope and manage the distress of separation anxiety disorder can be frustrating and difficult. But with comprehensive assessment, proper diagnosis, and a multidimensional treatment plan that includes education, therapy, and medication if indicated, you have a good chance of getting your child on track to grow developmentally and separate to take his place in the world.
Early treatment of SAD can prevent future difficulties for your child as he moves along developmentally. Without treatment your child will most likely have feelings of low self-worth and may be unable to develop friendships, fail to reach social and academic potential, and continue to suffer with anxiety throughout his life.