Treatment of Anxiety Disorders without Medication
Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a treatment approach designed to alter a person’s thoughts, beliefs, and images as a way of changing behavior. In treating a child with separation anxiety disorder, the goal is to help the child label her fears and identify the irrational beliefs and assumptions underlying her fears. By confronting and correcting her false beliefs, a parent can help his or her child become less anxious about separation.
Distraction and altruism
Distraction and altruism is another strategy that can be useful in treating separation anxiety disorder. Helping the child focus on things outside himself can provide a healthy distraction. For instance, the child may be asked to take care of a pet at school. Such distractions from the child’s internal thoughts and feelings coupled with a “fun” responsibility can help the child move away from his internal state of anxiety.
With imagery, a child uses his imagination to see himself being successful in a stressful situation. For example, before heading off to school, a child could imagine how he will handle separation from mom. Instead of crying, he sees himself calmly saying goodbye to his mom. The use of positive mental pictures may help diminish some of the child’s anxiety and fear before separation actually occurs.
Parents and teachers can be helpful in modeling appropriate behaviors and coping mechanisms at home and at school. For example, parents can model being relaxed when saying goodbye to their children and other people.