Securing a bond and attachment with a parent or parents becomes a very important aspect of not only early years, but also teenage and adult years for an infant. This attachment is usually made during the first few hours, weeks, and months of a child’s life. Parents who develop a safe, caring, and stable environment for their infants will allow them to feel trust, love, and dependability.
However, the number of children being diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is alarmingly increasing. Although the exact causes of RAD are not known, it is often associated with children who did not receive this type of attachment and bond early on. Children that were in an orphanage or shuffled from one foster parent to the next define some of the most affected sufferers of RAD. Infants that were physically, emotionally, or mentally abused may also develop RAD. Parents who have drug or alcohol dependencies, mental issues, or any other type of anger management problems may also see an increased risk of RAD in their children. Some other possible situations include extreme poverty, early family trauma such as a death or even divorce, postpartum depression in the mother, and inexperienced parents.
For a child to be diagnosed with RAD, a mental health provider will use a list of criteria provided by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). In a young child or infant some of the warning signs are:
* Doesn’t reach up when picked up
* Disinterest in playing common childhood games such as Peek-A-Boo or disinterest in playing with toys
* Remains calm when left alone. May even self-soothe with self-stroking or rocking
* Doesn’t follow others in the room with his/her eyes
* Doesn’t smile often and usually has sad, withdrawn features
If parents (also adoptive parents) notice these signs in their infant or toddler, immediate professional help should be sought out. Often, by changing their own behavior and learning key skills at a parenting class, they can create a strong bond with the child and prevent further, extreme examples of RAD.
However, some statistics warn that as many as 800,000 children and teenagers are suffering from some type of severe attachment disorder. Often times, signs and symptoms become very prominent before the age of 5 and worsen as the infant reaches childhood and later adolescence. Symptoms to be aware of in early childhood and adolescence include:
*Aggressive action toward peers
*Obvious and continuous discomfort and awkwardness
*Drug or alcohol abuse
*Not often engaging in social interactions
*Avoids or immediately dismisses any type of comforting/positive gestures or compliments
*Withdrawal from friends and family members (especially parents)
*Feelings of anger or distress that are often masked or hidden
Foster children and children who never secured a strong bond with their parents are considered at high risk for RAD. If you notice these types of symptoms in your infant, child, or teenager, it is very important to seek professional help immediately. Left untreated, RAD can create long lasting effects throughout adulthood. Some typical complications include low self-esteem, academic problems, delayed learning, eating disorders, drug or alcohol addictions, delayed growth, temper/anger management issues, depression or anxiety, and even unemployment or frequent job changes.
Scheduling an appointment with your general doctor or even a psychiatrist is the first step in diagnosing and understanding RAD. After the psychiatrist or mental health professional does an in-depth physical and mental examination of your child, they will use their observations to determine if the child meets the criteria of RAD. If so, treatment can begin.
While there is no set standard as to what treatment should be used, usually the mental health professional will use basic education and understanding of the disorder, counseling, and perhaps medication as ways to treat the child. A lot of emphasis is placed on ensuring that the child is part of a stable and strong home environment. Positive interactions between the parents and child are also recommended. Parents often attend parenting skills classes and family counseling during the course of treatment.
Because there is no simple or easy treatment for RAD, parents and the child should clearly understand that this is a long term challenge. It can become quite demanding and exhausting for the parent. The parents’ mental health should also be considered. A parent may find it beneficial to also seek out their own personal counseling sessions that may help them cope with having a child that suffers from RAD.
If your child has been diagnosed with RAD and you are currently looking for answers, perhaps you should consider a Christian based boarding school. These schools typically have many trained and skilled professionals that will offer around the clock supervision in a stable, caring environment for adolescents ages 12-17. They will be available for sessions in which they can counsel and minister the child.
Often times children with RAD are simply looking for that stability and trust in a relationship. A Christian boarding school can help restore and regain relationships between children and parents. Children that attend the 15 month program often reach a new level of spirituality and establish positive peer interactions.
Your child’s safety, health, and future depend on your positive reinforcement, support, and encouragement during the treatment of RAD. Self treating the child at home is probably not going to deliver results that will assist the child in transitioning from childhood to adolescence to adulthood. You must depend on professionals to help not only your child, but you, as a parent, cope with Reactive Attachment Disorder.
Linda Rosa, RN says
I urge caution on this matter. Here are my opinions:
The signs of RAD given above are not the recognized signs of this disorder (perhaps more a survival strategy than disorder). For example, there are
no aggressive or violent features to RAD as defined in the DSM-IV.
However, some “therapists” (aka “Attachment/Holding Therapists”) will attempt to scare adoptive parents into expensive and abusive “therapy” and harsh parenting methods with predictions that the child is potentially dangerous.
Legitimate therapy for RAD attempts to teach parents to be sensitive to the particular needs of their child and treat the child with patience and more effective parenting techniques.
Thank you much for your valuable input, Linda!
I think I have an attachment disorder when I was 14 I was put in a residential treastment facility for anger/behavioral problems this one male staff I became not only attacted to but very close with him always wanted to talk to him and would flip out if I couldnt talk to him also thought I would die without him. please help me and let me know if I have an attachment disorder if I do would like to know where I could get information about it and what to do to get help for it.
So, just the other night I was looking into mental disorders because I really am interested in Psychology and the sorts. I was looking at this list of disordres and I saw Reactive Attachment Disorder. I read the symptoms and I noticed that alot of the things listed relate to me and my relationship with people.
I do not like hugging to comforting. I hate when people tell me that thye are proud of me. I really don’t like talking to people about my problems, unless they are complete strangers or new friends I have started to text. I feel really bad about it, because I want to really just love my parents and sister, but I just feel distant. I don’t like looking people in the eyes, and I have gone throught several bouts of depression in the past two years.
I am thinking about confronting my mom about this disorder and seeing what she thinks.The only thing is that I really love my cousins. I really love them, but they are about the only people I really feel that with. I also don’t like hanging out with people or friends, and I move on from friends pretty fast.
I just want to have better relationships.
Can anyone tell me if I do infact had RAD? Because I do have some symptoms, but am I supposed to recognize that I do? And I also have big trust issues. I trust people and get attatched way too easilty, but I fall more into the other catergory of RAD.
I know there are other attachments disorders, but this sounds like the most relatable.