The Journey To Independence: Overcoming Separation Anxiety

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated November 28, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content Warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Embarking on a path to greater independence can be hard for many—especially if they may be experiencing the symptoms of separation anxiety. 

This emotional hurdle, often characterized by distress and worry when one is away from a loved one, could impact daily routines, relationships and personal growth. Understanding the possible root causes, identifying symptoms and exploring practical coping techniques can help you on your journey toward emotional resilience and independence.

Read on to learn more about management of separation anxiety. 

Experiencing Separation Anxiety?

Understanding Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety, which can be a natural part of human development for many, generally occurs when you feel apprehensive about being away from someone or something you are attached to—such as a caregiver, family member or pet. 

While commonly associated with young children, it might also manifest in adolescents and adults. It can become problematic, however, when anxiety-related symptoms become excessive or persistent, possibly interfering with daily life and hindering personal growth.

Online therapy and other supportive strategies can be helpful for many in resolving symptoms. 

Factors Contributing To Separation Anxiety

Many factors could contribute to the development of separation anxiety. Some common factors to consider can include genetic predisposition, one’s temperament and past experiences such as trauma or loss.

Additionally, one might consider possible contributing environmental factors—such as overprotective parenting or lack of a support system. 

Understanding the possible underlying causes of separation anxiety can empower someone living with the condition to develop appropriate coping strategies and interventions that can help on an individual basis. It may also lead to a more empathetic society as a whole. 

Recognizing The Signs Of Separation Anxiety

Identifying the symptoms of the condition can be a helpful step in addressing separation anxiety effectively. Some common signs to watch for can include:

  • Excessive worry about being away from a loved one
  • Reluctance to engage in activities or attend events without the attachment figure
  • Distress when anticipating separation
  • Sleep disturbances, such as nightmares or insomnia
  • Physical symptoms like headaches, stomachaches or dizziness

Recognizing these signs ahead of time can empower one to take appropriate steps to manage and overcome separation anxiety.


Coping Strategies: Overcoming Separation Anxiety

Various strategies could prove helpful as one works to overcome separation anxiety. Some common techniques include:

Establishment Of A Routine

Creating a predictable routine may alleviate some of the stress associated with separation. This can look different for many and might involve tasks such as setting consistent times for waking up, bed and mealtimes. Planning regular activities, such as exercise, hobbies, or social outings, could also be helpful. 

Additionally, designating specific times for spending with the attachment figure might provide a sense of stability and reassurance for the person experiencing symptoms, giving them assurance that the distance may only be temporary.

Gradual Exposure

Gradual exposure to absence generally allows someone to slowly build a tolerance to separation, potentially reducing the intensity of anxiety and related symptoms over time. 

Some tips for implementing gradual exposure can include starting with short separations and progressively increasing the duration. Gradually increasing the amount of time spent apart from the attachment figure might help to reduce anxiety and related symptoms, as opposed to removing the figure abruptly. 

Trying new activities or locations could also be helpful in gradually expanding one’s comfort zone. 

Encouraging independence and self-reliance during these activities might further promote a sense of accomplishment and confidence.

Support Networks

Building a strong support network can be helpful in overcoming separation anxiety. This may involve connecting with friends, family members or colleagues who can understand and empathize with the situation. 

Joining support groups or online communities for individuals experiencing similar challenges could provide additional resources and encouragement. Seeking advice or guidance from professionals, such as therapists or counselors, might also be beneficial. These professionals could offer tailored support and strategies to help you navigate the complexities of separation anxiety.

Self-Care And Relaxation Techniques

Incorporating self-care and relaxation techniques into one’s daily life could help to manage symptoms of separation anxiety more effectively. 

Some examples of relaxation techniques to try can include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation and guided imagery. These techniques might assist in reducing overall stress levels, making it easier to cope with separation anxiety. 

Other self-care practices, such as engaging in hobbies, getting regular exercise and maintaining a balanced diet, could also contribute to overall well-being and mental health. Prioritizing self-care can help one to feel more grounded and better equipped to handle the challenges of separation anxiety.

Communication And Emotional Expression

Open communication with loved ones and the attachment figure can be helpful in overcoming separation anxiety. Encouraging honest conversations about feelings and concerns can also foster a deeper understanding of the situation and create an environment where one feel supported and validated—possibly facilitating a higher level of healing. 

iStock/JLco - Julia Amaral
Experiencing Separation Anxiety?

Benefits Of Online Therapy

Online therapy can be a helpful first step for many as they begin to overcome separation anxiety. 

Online therapy generally offers one the opportunity to go through the therapeutic process, offering valuable insights into the possible factors that could be contributing to separation anxiety. This can empower survivors to address the root cause(s) more effectively. The virtual environment of online therapy can allow many more to reach a higher quality of life, possibly removing the nervousness and barriers that can be associated with in-person treatment. 

By using online therapy to address symptoms of separation anxiety effectively, one can become more self-aware and develop the emotional intelligence necessary to navigate possible situations involving separation.

Effectiveness Of Online Therapy

A study showed that psychodynamic therapy might be an effective treatment for separation anxiety in adults who have not responded to traditional treatments, which science suggests can be done quite effectively through digital and online formats

The participants reviewed in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry showed significant improvement on measures of global severity, current separation anxiety, and the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale at the end of the 12-week intervention. 

Furthermore, the results indicated a possible link between oxytocin levels and therapeutic outcomes, suggesting its potential usage as a biomarker or mediator of SA response. These findings suggest that targeting attachment issues with psychotherapy could be a promising avenue for treating those suffering from SA.


Separation anxiety can be a complicated and overwhelming experience for many. However, with the right strategies, it can be possible to manage this condition to lead a more balanced life. 

Through therapy, self-care practices, relaxation techniques, open communication and emotional expression, you can gain insight into the underlying causes of your separation anxiety while cultivating resilience and emotional growth. Embracing the journey could present opportunities for personal development that will serve you well beyond these challenging times. BetterHelp can connect you with an online therapist in your area of need.

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