The Basics of Reactive Attachment Disorder

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Dealing with RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) as an adoptive parent is no easy task, and understanding it is just as difficult. The chart above says it all. RAD goes beyond any other severe disorder. So let me break it down for you; RAD may be described as followed:

– The inability to form a close bond, even over a long period of time;

– Difficulty in showing or receiving affection;

– Difficulty in making friends; and

– Often results in bitterness and/or rage towards caregiver(s).

So I wouldn’t say it is as much of an inability, but it is rather a struggle for these children to build a close bond with their caregivers. There is still hope, though. Nothing is impossible.

So what becomes of RAD? What causes it? I like to describe it as a “Disturbed Attachment Cycle.” When a child is in an abusive home, is not fed, is not nurtured, and is not shown affection or any attention, trust is not developed, and as a result RAD is developed.

A wide range of ages deal with RAD. Although it is most common among teenagers, infants can also be diagnosed with it. According to The Help Guide, the most common symptoms of infants and toddlers includes:

  • Avoids eye contact
  • Doesn’t smile
  • Doesn’t reach out to be picked up
  • Rejects your efforts to calm, soothe, and connect
  • Doesn’t seem to notice or care when you leave them alone
  • Cries inconsolably
  • Doesn’t coo or make sounds
  • Doesn’t follow you with his or her eyes
  • Isn’t interested in playing interactive games or playing with toys
  • Spend a lot of time rocking or comforting themselves

If you begin to see these signs in your foster/adopted child, please do not be afraid to reach out to a family therapist. And as The Help Guide states, “Try to remember that your adopted child isn’t acting out because of lack of love for you. Their experience hasn’t prepared them to bond with you, and they can’t yet recognize you as a source of love and comfort. Your efforts to love them will have an impact—it just may take some time.”



The Help Guide