October 2012
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Separation Anxiety

Although “separation anxiety” is most often associated with young children adults can feel it too.

Living in an age of instant communication does not lessen the apprehension that some feel as a result of separation.  Sometimes, however, the underlying causes of the anxiety can be channelled in to a positive direction. People who genuinely miss their companions during times of separation are generally more committed to their relationship and are less likely to do things that would damage it. Although sometimes the intense worrying and anxiety can actually work to drive away the very person you are afraid of losing.

Coping with separation has been part of human nature throughout the evolutionary process. Humans have developed an “attachment system” in order to survive. Working together to produce food and shelter and to raise children is crucial to human survival. Although it has developed genetically and is in our genes, the attachment system of individuals is most likely partly based on how they related to and interacted with their parents during childhood.

According to psychologist and assistant professor for the Institute for Graduate Clinical Psychology at Widener University in Chester, Dr. Hal Shorey, there are three attachment-style types:

  • Secure,
  • Anxious,
  • Avoidant.

Secure people, roughly 55% of the population, are typically well adjusted. They are and comfortable with intimacy and with showing love.

They were probably raised by a caring and responsive parental figure who gave them love and showed interest in them. The other 45% may have problems in dealing with their attachment system, Dr. Hal Shorey writes.

These are the people most likely to become worrisome or anxious in the event of separation. Anxious people who worry about whether their partner loves them often had parents who were not always very nurturing. People who Dr. Shorey would classify as being  avoidant, are also referred to by psychologists as being “dismissive”. These people attempt to minimize closeness and intimacy. They most likely had parents who didn’t tolerate neediness or insecurities.

The worries that people have about perceived dangers to their relationships may have little or no basis in reality. Even if people do take the time to analyze and evaluate the realistic likelihood of perceived relationship dangers they will still feel the anxious and even nauseating effects of the perceived danger before they are able to do so.

The way we learn to respond to the threat of abandonment as young children actually changes the wiring of our brains, Dr. Shorey says. “This is an automatic response that will trigger even if you know you should not feel this way.” The best thing to do here is to evaluate whether any of your fears are actually credible and warranted.

If they are you might want to voice your concerns or discuss precautions with your loved one. However, it is important not to be overbearing while doing so. This will have the opposite effect. If your fears are unrealistic, or focus on the unavoidable possibilities of life, just try to keep calm and perhaps change focus to lover the hormonal stress levels. Understand your situation and where your fears are coming from. Then do whatever you enjoy and take your mind off the fear and anxiety until you are reunited. 

Serge Kozak is the founder of edictive.com and writes on a number of commercial blogs. In his spare time he loves a little retail therapy shopping for himself or gifts for others that are dear to him.

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