What is Reactive Attachment Disorder?
Most children, if they have formed a secure attachment, find solace in the arms of their parents. They are soothed and comforted easily by their caretaker and learn how to regulate their emotions.
However, when a child’s basic emotional and physical needs are not met and they do not form a secure attachment to their parent or caretaker, the child may develop reactive attachment disorder (RAD). RAD is usually diagnosed before the age of 5. Children who have this disorder may display symptoms like: consistently emotionally withdrawn, minimally seek/respond to comfort when distressed, unexplained irritability or sadness, minimally displays positive emotion, or limited social or emotional responsiveness. The development of this disorder in infancy or early childhood also negatively impacts one’s ability to form positive relationships in adulthood.
Reactive attachment disorder is often found to be simultaneously existing with other disorders such as ADHD, mood disorders, anxiety disorders, learning disorders, and behavioral disorders.
What causes Reactive Attachment Disorder?
Children with a RAD diagnosis have most often been subject to severe abuse and/or neglect. Additional risk factors include: inexperienced parents, frequent change in caretaker, extreme poverty, and mother who has post-partum depression. Due to RAD not being a prominent diagnosis in the clinical setting, the prevalence rate of the disorder is unknown.
Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT)
There is no standard treatment for reactive attachment disorder. However, there has been success in using trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy as a treatment. This can help to treat the underlying attachment issues and promote emotion regulation.
Where to find help
If located within the area of Pittsburgh,
Southwood Psychiatric Hospital (opens in a new tab)