Paul was obsessed with his wife Christy even after 12 years of wedlock. He would check on her if she went out to shop for groceries, visited her parents, met her friends, and even when she stepped out to see a doctor. The fixation with his wife and everything she did grew with every passing year and Christy began suffocating under Paul’s harrowing obsession. Paul had even stopped traveling due to work commitments so that he could be with his wife as much as possible. Fortunately, Paul cooperated when Christy coaxed him to get help. His psychiatrist diagnosed him with adult separation anxiety (ASA).
At times, childhood separation anxiety continues into adulthood or it may develop in the adult phase of life due to a past of abuse or neglect. ASA can be so overpowering that an individual might get a panic attack when a loved one moves away. At other times, when the disease is not so intimidating, there could be other subtle symptoms, like:
Jealousy – Extreme jealousy manifests in people when they fear loss of control over a loved one. They trust less, harbor unreasonable doubts and worries, and may also fear infidelity.
Strict parenting – Also known as reverse separation anxiety, parents might be so worried about their child leaving them someday that they start controlling the child’s life. Parents become extremely strict and protective as they constantly fear living alone if the child leaves them.
Frustrating relationships – Sometimes, despite knowing that a person or a relationship may be bad for one’s physical or psychological health, people are stuck. They are afraid to leave as they are constantly anxious of something going bad.
Mooching – When grown up kids won’t leave their parent’s home or when a friend visits but doesn’t seem to leave, it is known as mooching.
Ways to manage ASA
To understand the problem, one has to closely look at the symptoms of separation anxiety in a person, which could be excessive worry about losing things, unexplained attachment to people and sleep disturbances. In the absence of sufficient diagnostic assessment for ASA, its treatment is not clinically defined. However, it’s possible to manage the symptoms and gradually overcome the insurmountable anxiety.
- Joining support groups – Joining support groups can be of immense help as they offer a platform to connect with people who are sailing in the same boat. Talking and sharing experiences can be very therapeutic and liberating in the long run.
- Practicing relaxation techniques – It is important to calm the anxious mind and feel relaxed. Yoga, meditation and mindfulness techniques are immensely beneficial. One should try to do activities that he or she enjoys to distract the unwarranted fears. Walking a pet, strolling in a garden, enjoying supper with friends, cooking or reading an inspirational book are some of the ways to remain occupied and mentally satisfied.
- Writing a journal – Whenever one feels anxious, he/she should write about those feelings in a journal. Writing can help one identify the feelings and address them when they pop up the next time. It’s also a great opportunity to assess response to one’s troubling thoughts and make efforts to reframe them in a positive manner.
- Taking professional help – Any anxiety disorder can interfere with daily activities and impede personal and career growth. It also affects relationships and people might not want to associate with somebody who is overly possessive. In order to prevent the symptoms from worsening, it is important to get professional support.
Recovery from ASA is possible
If ASA is not treated timely, one might become obsessed and indulge in other negative behaviors. But anxiety can be treated through medications, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and other therapies like art therapy or dance movement.