It can be difficult to see a friend experience separation anxiety. However, you don’t have to be a doctor to help them cope with their symptoms. Here are five ways to assist a friend in managing a separation anxiety disorder.

Separation anxiety disorder can cause people to fear being separated from a person, place or pet. If you have a friend experiencing separation anxiety, you might be familiar with the effects of the condition, which can include needing to know where a person is at all times.

Helping someone with separation anxiety can be difficult. Finding ways to ease anxious feelings in a friend requires patience and knowledge of the disorder. Supporting a friend with a separation anxiety disorder can help improve their physical and mental health.

Separation Anxiety in Adults

Many people assume that only children experience separation anxiety disorder. Although separation anxiety is more common in children, adults can also deal with this condition. For example, an adult can develop separation anxiety disorder after divorcing a long-time partner or when their child moves out of the house.

Physical symptoms of separation anxiety in adults include:

  • A headache
  • Nausea
  • A sore throat

Psychological indicators of separation anxiety disorder in adults include:

  • A heightened fear of being alone
  • A fear that a loved one will be harmed if you leave them alone
  • Relationship problems caused by separation anxiety

Some adults with separation anxiety disorder have lived with the condition since childhood. People with obsessive-compulsive disorder are at an increased risk of developing separation anxiety as adults.

5 Ways to Help a Friend With Separation Anxiety

You don’t have to be a medical professional to help someone with separation anxiety. How do you help a friend with anxiety? There might not be a singular way to assist a friend with controlling their separation anxiety.

However, you can better prepare yourself to help someone with this disorder and support them in several ways. Your encouragement might provide the inspiration needed for them to seek professional assistance.

1. Learn About Separation Anxiety

You can use many resources to learn about separation anxiety disorder. You can talk to a health care expert about the effects of this disorder and ways to help a friend control their symptoms. A doctor or therapist can offer tips for supporting a friend who has the condition.

The internet offers many separation anxiety resources. Many reputable organizations, like the Child Mind Institute, provide information about separation anxiety disorder. Many of these resources include information about the effects of separation anxiety and the benefits of treatment.

2. Be Supportive

Knowing how to support someone with anxiety can help a friend with separation anxiety. Support might involve spending time with them several times each week. You can grab a cup of coffee or attend a sporting event or concert with them.

You can also support someone by offering your advice. Maybe you do not experience separation anxiety, but you might have resources for reducing your own stress. Talk to them about what helps you control your stress or anxiety. Those resources may also help them.

3. Be Patient

According to Medical News Today, separation anxiety disorder can cause people to worry constantly. Individuals not dealing with this condition may not understand how distressing symptoms of separation anxiety can become. As a result, people without the disorder may struggle to be patient with a friend experiencing separation anxiety.

Exhibiting patience can make individuals with separation anxiety disorder more comfortable around you. Being patient might inspire them to confide in you about their problems, which can reduce their stress. They may also be more likely to listen to your advice.

4. Encourage Them to Seek Help

Separation anxiety disorder is a mental condition that might require psychotherapy to learn ways to better manage the condition. However, many people with psychological conditions, like separation anxiety disorder, do not seek professional treatment. Others might not know when to seek help for anxiety problems.

You can encourage a friend with separation anxiety to seek therapy. Talk to them about the benefits of psychotherapy and how it has helped others with separation anxiety. If they do decide to seek therapy, you can offer help by driving them to their appointments.

5. Celebrate Small Successes

Managing a mental health disorder is difficult. If a friend is trying to cope with separation anxiety, celebrate their small successes. This form of encouragement can inspire them to continue working through their mental health challenges.

For example, a minor, yet important, achievement might involve attending therapy each week. Finding healthy avenues for reducing anxious feelings, such as participating in mindfulness meditation, is also worth celebrating.

Making a Separation Anxiety Action Plan

Helping your friend create a separation anxiety action plan can help them control their distressing symptoms. This individual can also refer to this anxiety action plan whenever they feel intense stress caused by separation anxiety disorder.

Some helpful tips typically included in a separation anxiety plan are:

  • Calm breathing exercises
  • Muscle-relaxation techniques
  • Engage in positive thinking
  • Cognitive coping cards
  • Seek reassurance from a loved one

A separation anxiety plan does not eliminate anxiety. Instead, this resource is intended to help people tolerate and manage their anxiety. People dealing anxiety conditions, including separation anxiety disorder, use anxiety action plans.

Key Points: Helping a Friend with Separation Anxiety

Some important points to remember about how to help a friend with separation anxiety disorder include:

  • Although children are more likely to experience separation anxiety, adults can also deal with separation anxiety disorder
  • To help a friend with separation anxiety:
    1. Learn about the condition
    2. Support your friend whenever possible
    3. Be patient with them, especially when their symptoms arise
    4. Promote the benefits of treatment
    5. Celebrate their small victories, like beginning therapy
  • A separation anxiety plan is a short-term tool that can help people better manage their symptoms of separation anxiety

Some people with separation anxiety turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their stress. If your friend with separation anxiety disorder engages in substance use, contact The Recovery Village. An admissions representative can talk to you about ways to help your friend or loved one find treatment.

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Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more

Child Mind Institute. “Separation Anxiety Disorder Basics.” (n.d.). Accessed January 7, 2019.

Nall, Rachel. “What is separation anxiety disorder in adults?” Medical News Today, June 7, 2018. Accessed January 7, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.