What is Reactive Attachment Disorder? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

RAD (reactive attachment disorder) is a rare condition where children can’t develop an emotional connection with their caregivers. Today, we’ll discuss what is reactive attachment disorder; its symptoms, causes, and treatment.

What is Reactive Attachment Disorder? 

Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a rare and severe condition where young children and infants don’t develop healthy emotional attachments with their parental figures or caregivers. It is usually with their mothers before the age of five years old. Often, it happens due to abuse and emotional neglect at an early age.  

Children develop attachments with their caregivers due to the repetitive care, comfort, and soothing at an early age and meeting their needs. The protection and love provided by the caregiver teach the child to develop a positive self-image; healthy relationships, regulate their emotions, realize the needs and feelings of others, and love and trust others. Emotional neglect at an early age badly impacts the future and mental health of the child.

We don’t exactly the occurrence rate of RAD condition because of the many unreported cases. According to an estimate, RAD happens roundabout 1-2% of children. The kids living in foster care, separated from their families, and removed from their houses usually experience RAD. Approximately half of the children find it difficult to establish a relationship over time.

Symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder 

RAD impacts almost every aspect of the kids’ development and life. Some of the main symptoms that young children and babies would experience are as follows;

  • Sad and unhappy without any clear reason
  • Disobedient, irritable, having a tantrum, or arguing than you expect from the children of their situation and age
  • Avoiding physical touch from their caregivers
  • Not making the eye contact
  • Not showing regret, guilt, remorse, or emotions of conscience
  • Non-responsive to various types of emotions that you would expect them to be

Symptoms Inhibited RAD

  • Capability to keep it to themselves
  • Not receiving affection from caregivers and others
  • Mixture or withdrawal approach and avoidance
  • Holding back their emotions and high inhibition
  • Resistance to comfort or nonresponsiveness
  • Detachment

Symptoms of Disinhibited RAD

  • Seeking affection in dangerous ways and the capability to behave younger than their age
  • Not giving any preference to their primary caregivers over other people
  • Picky while choosing their attachments figure or inappropriate familiarity
  • Indiscriminate sociable

Causes of Reactive Attachment Disorder 

RAD usually happens when there is an interruption between primary care of the child and negligent care during the interrupted phase. It happens due to various reasons and they’re as follows;

  • Changing primary caregivers repetitively stops the child from developing stable relationships like the changing foster care
  • Disregarding the basic needs of the child consistently
  • Not caring for the emotional needs of the child-like affection, stimulation, and comfort

Risk Factors

  • Hospitalization of caregivers or parents causes separation for a long time
  • Parents are engaged in criminal activities and do not pay heed to the child
  • The parents have got serious mental issues like alcohol or drug abuse
  • Living in the child’s home or other institution

Diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder

The healthcare provider would like to know the medical history and the symptoms the child is experiencing. In order to better understand the symptoms of your child, the doctor would ask the following questions;

  • The interaction of the child with other caregivers
  • Living situations of the child
  • How you and the child communicate with each other
  • Things you noticed first
  • When you start noticing the symptoms
  • Neglect or abuse your child has experience

If the healthcare provider observes the symptoms of RAD, then they would suggest you and your child should visit a psychologist in order to accurately diagnose the exact condition and suggest the right treatment plan. It is because the symptoms of RAD are similar to autism spectrum disorder, and you can misdiagnose the condition.

Treatment of Reactive Attachment Disorder 

The focus of the treatment is to repair the uncomfortable relationship and develop a healthier emotional relationship for the child with their caregivers. It makes children stronger emotionally, and it helps them in developing relationships later in their lives. However, the treatment is equally beneficial both for the child and the caregiver. Some of the treatment plans are as follows;

Counseling or Psychotherapy

The therapist would recognize and minimize the problematic pattern that is preventing to development of the bond. The doctor would work on building a healthier emotional connection between the child and the caregiver.

Social Intervention

It teaches the child how to communicate with other children of the same age in a social atmosphere. Parents usually show interest and encourage the child to practice the skill learned in the therapy session.

Family Therapy

It comprises collaborating with the whole family like the child and the caregiver and working on finding a way to better way to communicate with each other.

Special Education

If the child is old enough to read and learn, then the therapist would recommend a special education school-based program for the child. It would help the child socially and academically.

Parenting Skills Classes

The parents and caregivers would learn techniques for appropriately managing the difficult behaviors of the child.

Conclusion: What is Reactive Attachment Disorder? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment 

After an in-depth study of what is reactive attachment disorder; its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment; we have realized that RAD could badly disturb a person’s life. If you’re experiencing its symptoms, then you should consult with the therapist as soon as you can.