Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a rare, yet, debilitating mental illness in which an infant or a young child is not able to form healthy attachments with the parents or the caregivers. This disorder develops when a child’s basic need of care, affection, and nurturing is not met.
With treatment, however, from a reputed mental health treatment center, children may start developing healthy and stable relationships with their parents or caregivers. Treatment usually comprises parent or caregiver counseling and education, psychological counseling, and getting familiar with positive caregiver and child interactions. These have been established as essential for creating a stable and nurturing environment.
The symptoms of RAD manifest in infancy and it has not yet been established if the symptoms persist beyond the age of 5 in children. Various symptoms include:
Feeling withdrawn, irritable, sad, and fearful
Not being receptive to comfort
Not asking for support or assistance
Not interested in playing games
For feeling safe and developing trust, infants and young children need constant love and reassurance. For this, it is important that all their needs are met with utmost compassion and care. For example, if an infant cries, then its need for a diaper change or feed must be attended to with a smiling caregiver who caresses the infant, sings a lullaby, and makes constant eye contact.
On the other hand, if the infant is treated coldly and its emotional needs are not met, over time, it fails to develop a strong and healthy bond with its parents or caregivers. It is not yet clear why some infants and young children develop reactive attachment disorder. Although various theories exist, there is still a need of extensive research in this case which could also help in the formulation of correct diagnosis and treatment intervention.
Some of the risk factors for developing RAD are:
When a child lives in children’s home or other similar institutions
When the foster homes or caregivers of a child are frequently changed
When a child has parents struggling with a serious mental illness, substance abuse, or criminal conduct which impairs parenting
When a child undergoes extended separation from caregivers or parents due to hospitalization.
If left untreated, RAD can cause problems in the future. A child might grow into a callous and detached individual who may even harm people and/or animals. However, more research is warranted to establish if the problem in older adults can be traced back to the development of RAD during infancy.
Some of the ways in which the development of RAD can be prevented are:
Taking classes and volunteering with children can help the parents and caregivers who lack the skills of taking care of a baby and young children.
By being actively engaged with the child. This can be achieved by establishing eye contact, smiling, caressing, playing, and talking to him/her, among others.
Learning different baby cues so that all of his/her requirements are met.
By offering both verbal and non-verbal communication to the child through touch, voice, and facial expressions.
Careful observation of interaction with caregivers and parents
Assessment of behavior in different types of situations
Evaluation of living situation since birth
Evaluation of parenting or caregiving abilities and styles
The mental health specialist will also rule out the presence of other disorders like intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, depressive disorders, and other adjustment disorders.
The goal of treatment is to repair the bond between the child and parent or a caregiver. The treatment may incorporate:
Social skills intervention
Treatment of Reactive Attachment Disorder at Medical Concierge
At the behavioral health center of Medical Concierge, our mental health professionals believe that patients dealing with reactive attachment disorder are best served in a home-like setting that underscores the importance of personalized interactions, close supervision, and wide-ranging professional support.
In this supportive therapeutic setting, patients benefit from the supervision of caring professionals, who know them not just as patients, but as unique individuals gifted with specific strengths, weaknesses, optimisms, and fears.
To learn more about the other mental health services and treatment intervention programs offered, call our 24/7 available helpline (877) 636-0042 and speak with a member from the admissions team. You can also chat online with a representative for further assistance.
Medical Concierge offers quality, innovative and compassionate care for mental illnesses and co-occurring disorders. We also offer alumni services and continuing care to ensure sustained recovery.