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Nature of Reactive Attachment Disorder

Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) typically begins in childhood. Instability in their early life, unhealthy parental patterns of engagement, and lack of secure bonding are just a few ways a person may struggle with attachment to loved ones. Find out more about RAD, how it changes a person’s brain, and why addiction may enter the picture as a result.

Early Beginnings

Babies have an innate need for tender loving care and attachment. By nature, they are designed to spend the first several months to a year close to someone who can care for their emotional and physical needs (food, clothing, shelter, and emotional connection). The need to be taken care of by someone is very important early on. Any disruption to this process can change the physiology of a child’s body and mind, putting them at risk for developing attachment disorders later in life. RAD is a disorder where stable attachments are not present and caregivers are not nurturing their needs. Separated children, abuse or neglect are some of the reasons children struggle with attachment.

Signs and Symptoms

Children who struggle with attachment or have symptoms of RAD will appear to be less connected to caregivers or overly clingy to those who show any sign of affection or care towards them. Some common signs in children of disrupted attachment:

  • Not able to receive comfort when upset
  • Acting irritable or sad for no known reason
  • Lack of interest in other kids

Adults who experience RAD will exhibit similar traits but it may show up in these ways:

  • Unreasonable responses to triggers or stressors in their life
  • Intolerant of authority figures
  • Shallow or vain
  • Arrogant or self-important, including grandiosity
  • Relationships are seen as threatening
  • May become compulsive caregivers to receive what they feel they lack
  • Idealizes others
  • Oversensitive to rejection
  • Extreme emotional highs and lows

These are some of the emotions which may be charged as some other diagnosis or disorder. It is important to visit with trained therapists in trauma-informed therapy work who can give a better diagnosis and idea of how to treat an adult who experiences RAD.

Diagnosis and Treatment

RAD is a difficult diagnosis to offer a child. Several criteria must be met, including several symptoms listed above. The symptoms must appear before the child is 5 years old and last for at least a year. A proper diagnosis can prevent long-term issues for the child if they are able to get other diagnoses taken care of that may arise, including ADHD, PTSD, ODD (oppositional defiant disorder), or other psychiatric challenges. Later in life, this child may also struggle with addiction as a way to cope with their diagnosis (or lack thereof). Treatment for children with RAD only works when the child is safe and away from the environment that likely caused the trauma. A caregiver who can provide emotional support for the child can offer help to them as they grow. Substance abuse and other challenges may occur as they age and try to deal with life’s challenges, but emotional support from consistent caregivers is key to helping them become as healthy as possible.

The Guest House Ocala feels that diagnoses can be limited to individuals with RAD and other mental health concerns. Our goal is to provide holistic approaches to healing in recovery without stigma or attachment to the diagnosis. We are here to help you learn how to live a full, healthy life sober and clean. Call us to find out how to get started: 1-855-483-7800