reactive attachment disorders develop when children fail to form the important bond that usually forms between a child and their caregivers. This usually happens to babies who are severely abused or neglected, often due to frequent changes in caregivers (such as in orphanages or foster care). Children with reactive attachment disorder may seem sad or fearful and do not respond to their caregivers’ attempts to make them feel better. This is rare, and it can only be diagnosed in kids between the ages of nine months and five years. Doctors check to make sure that the symptoms are not from autism, because they share some of the same symptoms.
Symptoms of RAD are categorized as inhibited and disinhibited. Inhibited symptoms include extreme withdrawnness, emotional detachment, and resistance to comfort. They also tend to be hypervigilant and unable to relax in any situation. Children with RAD also act younger than their age and are perpetually anxious. Disinhibited symptoms of RAD are more observable in older children. They may resist touching or embracing, ignore people around them and push others away, sometimes aggressively. Children with RAD have no preference for parents over strangers and tend to avoid intimacy and trust in general.
Building Trust and Attachment: Strategies for Parents of Children with RAD
Early treatment is the best way to help a child with a reactive attachment disorder. A pediatrician or psychologist should examine the child to determine if he or she has a problem, and a referral for a specialist can be made if needed. Children who have a severe case of RAD may need to be placed in a residential program for treatment. These programs offer safe, stable environments where a professional can monitor the child’s progress and provide necessary therapy and education to improve the child’s behavior.