Separation Anxiety Disorder Specialist

Michael Messina,  Psy.D. -  - Clinical Psychologist

Michael Messina, Psy.D.

Clinical Psychologist located in Southlake, TX

If your child displays excessive and inappropriate fear or distress about being apart from you or other loved ones, they may have separation anxiety disorder. Clinical psychologist Michael Messina, PsyD, treats separation anxiety in children and teenagers at his practice in Southlake, Texas. For compassionate treatment of separation anxiety disorder, call or book an appointment online today.

Separation Anxiety Disorder Q & A

What is separation anxiety disorder?

It’s normal for toddlers to experience a period of separation anxiety. Your toddler may cry the first time you drop them off at daycare or leave them with a babysitter. Most children outgrow this stage sometime around 3 years of age. 

Prolonged or intense separation anxiety that interferes with school or daily activities may be a sign of separation anxiety disorder. This anxiety can be focused on separation from a parent or other close caregiver. 

How do I know if my child has separation anxiety disorder?

Your child may have separation anxiety disorder if they experience fear and distress that’s inappropriate for their developmental age. Symptoms of separation anxiety disorder are more intense than typical separation anxiety and may include:

  • Recurrent nightmares about separation
  • Refusing to be away from home for fear of separation
  • Excessive and recurrent anxiety about being away from loved ones
  • Persistent worry about losing a parent or loved one to a disease or disaster
  • Constant worry that something bad will happen to cause separation from loved ones
  • Refusal to sleep away from home without a parent or loved one nearby

They may also complain of physical symptoms, like headaches or stomachaches, when they anticipate being separated from a loved one. 

Some children with separation anxiety disorder experience panic attacks, or sudden episodes of overwhelming terror that peak within several minutes. 

How is separation anxiety disorder diagnosed and treated?

Early diagnosis and treatment of separation anxiety disorder is the best way to prevent future problems with school, work, and social relationships. 

To diagnose separation anxiety disorder, Dr. Messina performs a comprehensive psychological evaluation. Then, he recommends the best course of treatment for your child’s specific condition. 

Dr. Messina uses cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), an effective form of psychotherapy for children with separation anxiety disorder. 

CBT teaches your child how to confront and control their fears about separation. This type of therapy also teaches the child’s parents and other caregivers how to effectively support and encourage their independence. 

To learn more about how CBT can help your child overcome separation anxiety disorder, call the office of Dr. Michael Messina or book an appointment online today.