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It is normal for toddlers to be clingy and fear unfamiliar people and places.

When brief separation is developmentally appropriate for a child, yet s/he displays excessive fear, the child may have separation anxiety disorder. The child is very attached to a parent or caregiver, and becomes extremely anxious when separated or being away from home. The child frequently worries that something bad will happen to him/her or the caregiver when separated. Even the thought of future separation causes intense nervousness that can lead to physical symptoms, such as stomachaches, nausea, and headaches. School refusal is often a result of the child’s fear of separation.

Associated Features

  • Lacks confidence in own ability for self-care without parents
  • Repeatedly asks questions about parent’s whereabouts
  • Multiple calls from school to pick up child
  • Often sick and ends up in school nurse’s office
  • Refusal to take part in sleepovers, overnight camps
  • Resists participating in activities without a caregiver
  • Pleads or bargains to remain close to parents
  • Initially becomes clingy and results in severe crying or tantrums

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