What is Reactive Attachment Disorder?

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Reactive Attachment Disorder

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a serious psychological condition associated with children who have experienced persistent abuse, abandonment, neglect, or separation from parents at a very young age.

A child with RAD is so neurologically disrupted that they cannot attach to a primary caregiver or go through the normal developmental processes. These children cannot establish positive relationships with other people. RAD may result in learning problems, social problems, mental problems and failed personal, and interpersonal relationships.

Symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder

  • A low self-esteem, needy, clingy, or pseudo-independent behavior
  • An inability to deal with stress and adversity, depression, apathy
  • Susceptibility to chronic illness
  • Obsession with food hordes, gorges, refuses to eat, eats strange things, hides food
  • Lacks control
  • Inability to develop and maintain friendships
  • Alienation from parents, caregivers, and other authority figures
  • Aggression and violence
  • Difficulty with genuine trust, intimacy, and affection
  • Lack of empathy, compassion, and remorse
  • Negative, hopeless, pessimistic view of self, family and society
  • Behavior problems at school, difficulty learning

The Causes of Attachment Disorders

Here are a few of the reasons a child may not be able to establish successful attachment relationships:

  • Emotional neglect
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Separation from primary caregiver
  • Changes in primary caregiver
  • Traumatic experiences such as death of parent or disaster
  • Maternal depression
  • Maternal use of drugs or alcohol
  • Undiagnosed, isolating painful illness such as colic or ear infections

How to Help a Child with Attachment Disorder

Strong relationships with relatives, teachers, and childcare providers can help the child develop the ability to form healthy attachments. The actual treatment depends on the child and their particular circumstances. The child must be in an environment where he or she feels safe and can learn to trust. Its helpful to remember ways to communicate than can build the necessary level of trust. For example, a baby or young child will follow your visual cues. Its important to make eye contact, have a positive facial expression, posture, and body movements. In addition, the tone of voice you use, your speech rhythm, rate, and intensity are ways to communicate care and understanding.