Anaclitic Depression: Understanding and Overcoming


Anaclitic depression, also known as affectional deprivation disorder, is a type of depression that affects infants, young children, and adults who have experienced a significant loss of relationship, particularly one involving separation or loss of a primary caregiver. This type of depression is named after the word “anaclysis,” which refers to the need for emotional attachment or intimacy.

Anaclitic depression can impact an individual’s emotional and psychological well-being, leading to a feeling of hopelessness, lack of motivation, and loss of interest in daily activities. In this article, we will discuss the factors that contribute to anaclitic depression, and the signs, symptoms and treatment options for the disorder.

Causes of Anaclitic Depression

The onset of anaclitic depression is often the result of the loss of a significant relationship, particularly a primary caregiver. It may also be caused by emotional neglect, as well as physical or emotional abuse. Children who are deprived of emotional and physical necessities and support, such as food, shelter, and emotional connection, are more likely to develop anaclitic depression.

Some research indicates that genetic factors may also contribute to the disorder. Children who have a family history of depression may be at higher risk of developing the disorder. Additionally, other factors that may lead to anaclitic depression, include disruptions in attachment, such as frequent changes in caregivers, absence of caregivers, or prolonged hospitalization.

Signs and Symptoms of Anaclitic Depression

The symptoms of anaclitic depression can range from mild to severe, and they are often different depending on the age of the individual. In infants and young children, the signs of anaclitic depression may include feeding problems or growth retardation, lack of responsiveness, unresponsiveness to stimuli, and a lack of interest in play.

In adolescents and adults, the signs of anaclitic depression include extreme sadness or sadness without apparent cause, lack of interest in typical activities or lack of motivation, difficulty in establishing or maintaining relationships, decreased energy, and a sense of hopelessness.

Other symptoms of anaclitic depression include sleeping problems, such as insomnia or hypersomnia, changes in appetite or weight, difficulty concentrating or making decisions, frequent thoughts of death or suicide, feelings of worthlessness, and difficulty in experiencing pleasure or joy.

Treatment Options for Anaclitic Depression

The treatment of anaclitic depression is based on the severity of symptoms and the underlying causes of the disorder. A combination of medications and psychotherapy is often recommended.

Antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can be an effective treatment option for individuals with anaclitic depression. These medications work by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain, which helps to improve mood and reduce symptoms of depression.

Psychotherapy, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, and psychoanalytic therapy, can also help to reduce symptoms of anaclitic depression. These therapies aim to help individuals identify and modify negative thoughts and behaviors, improve relationships, and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

In severe cases, hospitalization may be necessary to ensure the safety of the individual. Inpatient treatment may involve a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and daily routines, as well as support from a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals that may include psychiatrists, nurses, and social workers.

Prevention and Coping Strategies

Preventing anaclitic depression involves creating a nurturing and secure environment for infants, children, and adolescents, where they feel safe and cared for. Providing emotional support, such as regular contact and attention from caregivers, can help to prevent the onset of anaclitic depression.

For adults who have experienced significant loss or separation, it is important to seek support from friends, family, and mental health professionals. Coping strategies may include developing a self-care routine, such as exercise, healthy eating habits, and engaging in enjoyable activities.

Individuals with anaclitic depression may also benefit from support groups or peer support, which can provide a sense of community and help to reduce feelings of isolation.


Anaclitic depression is a type of depression that can affect individuals of all ages who have experienced significant loss or separation from a primary caregiver. The symptoms of anaclitic depression can range from mild to severe, and treatment options include a combination of medications and psychotherapy.

Preventing anaclitic depression involves creating a nurturing and secure environment for infants, children, and adolescents, while coping strategies for adults may involve developing a self-care routine and seeking support from friends, family, and mental health professionals.

With appropriate treatment and support, individuals with anaclitic depression can recover from the disorder and regain a sense of emotional and psychological well-being.


FAQs about Anaclitic Depression

What is Anaclitic Depression?

Anaclitic Depression is a type of depression usually seen in infants and young children. The condition occurs when a child is separated from the primary caregiver for an extended period, leading to feelings of fear, sadness, and hopelessness.

How can you identify Anaclitic Depression in children?

Some signs of Anaclitic Depression in children include withdrawal, excessive crying, loss of appetite, and sleep disturbances. Affected children may find it challenging to connect or interact with others and may become irritable or easily upset without any apparent reason.

What are the treatment options for Anaclitic Depression?

The treatment for Anaclitic Depression aims to address the root cause of the condition, which is the separation from a primary caregiver. It requires the infant or young child to receive lots of love, care, and attention from a new primary caregiver, who can create a secure and stable environment for the affected child. Psychotherapy is also recommended for older children or those who may have developed emotional or behavioral issues.


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