Reactive Attachment Disorder – RAD

Imagine the feeling of being unable to connect with anyone and unable to feel the comfort of being loved. Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a rare but serious condition in which a child fails to establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers. The absence of emotional warmth during the first few years of life can negatively affect a child’s entire future. Children who experience severe neglect, abuse, early separation, and an implicit lack of an identifiable, preferred attachment figure are susceptible to a condition referred to as reactive attachment disorder (RAD); characterized by an inability of the child to form normal, loving relationships. Children with RAD generally are at higher risk for depression; aggressive disruptive behavior; learning difficulties; behavior problems in school; an inability to form meaningful relationships; and low self-esteem. Without treatment, RAD can have a negative impact on a child’s physical, emotional, behavioral, social, and moral development and other lifelong consequences.

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) | Judith Land | Adoption Detective

If you’re a parent or caregiver whose child has reactive attachment disorder, it’s easy to become angry, frustrated and distressed. You may feel like your child doesn’t love you—or that it’s hard to like your child sometimes. Children with RAD have difficulty maintaining relationships. They exhibit defiant behavior, a refusal to cooperate, and a pervasive anger and resentment. They are characterized as having cognitive and language delays, conduct disorder, difficulties in social settings and academic learning difficulties.

Adopted children are considerably more at risk of exhibiting emotional, behavioral, and educational problems related to RAD than children raised by their biological parents. A child who is lacking the experience of forming a strong, secure connection with the mother or primary caregiver during the crucial period of early brain development is at a higher risk of becoming emotionally scarred in infancy. The lack of opportunity for proper growth and development increases the risk of various forms of psychopathology, including reactive attachment disorder and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); behaviors based on attachment theory. The lack of an identifiable attachment figure may result in grossly disturbed internal models for relating to others leading to indiscriminate sociability manifested by inhibited, hyper vigilant, ambivalent and contradictory responses; poor social interaction with peers; aggression toward self and others; a failure to thrive and atypical abnormal behaviors that persist for many years.

There is no universally accepted diagnostic protocol for RAD. Signs and symptoms may include withdrawal from others, fear, sadness and irritability; listlessness; a failure to smile; avoidance of social interaction; a failure to reach out to others; and a lack of interest in interactive games. Children with reactive attachment disorder are believed to have the capacity to form attachments, but this ability has been compromised by their experiences. The best treatment for a child with reactive detachment disorder is early intervention with a positive, loving, stable, caring environment and caregiver. Treatments for reactive attachment disorder include positive child and caregiver interactions, a stable, nurturing environment, psychological counseling, and parent or caregiver education. Modifying the behavior of the parents or primary caregivers provides most of the treatment.

Judith Land

adopción | принятие | 양자 | 采用 | adoção | adopţie | lcm con nuôi | Annahme | υιοθεσία


About Judith Land

Judith Land lives in Colorado and Arizona with husband and coauthor Martin Land. Judith is a former nurse, retail shop owner, college instructor and avid outdoor person. Her book "Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child" is a true story detailing the journey of Judith Romano, foster child and adoptee, as she discovers fragments of her background, and then sets out to solve the mystery as an adult. She has reached readers in 192 countries. "Mothers and fathers everywhere in the world need to understand that children are forever and always." --Judith Land
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10 Responses to Reactive Attachment Disorder – RAD

  1. RAD is a term or diagnosis that wasn’t around when I was a kid. I probably exhibited a number of its symptoms but what was going on with me was not understood. What ops and help is there for adults with RAD? The boat of early intervention has long since sailed for me and I suspect many adult adoptees like me. Can you comment on the possibilities for later life recovery and healing?

    • Judith Land says:

      Rather than punishing bad behavior or shaming adults who suffer from the lack of maternal bonding during childhood we should recognize what has truly happened and offer them the support they need to overcome the significant effects of this serious attachment disorder. Support groups and treatment programs for adults with reactive attachment disorder are rare even though the fears and sadness that accompanies this condition are common. The lack of early intervention in childhood increases the risk of various forms of psychopathology based on attachment theory; problems that may continue to manifest themselves in adolescence and continue through to adulthood. Unfortunately, emotional blocks and the lack of knowing what love and attachment really are present fundamental barriers to communication. There has to be an initial admission to the fact that there are issues that need to be resolved and an agreement to face the difficult challenges of overcoming deep rooted psychological problems. A professional therapist is helpful for understanding the consequences of an individual’s past and framing future treatments. The more willing the sufferer is to learn, the faster new coping skills can be learned. The therapeutic support and participation of others is essential when learning to form lasting and loving relationships with families, friends and loved ones.

  2. taylortoasia says:

    I had never heard of this until today, but this describes me so much as a child, even now. Going to do some more research today, thank you so much for sharing!

  3. eagoodlife says:

    Reblogged this on The Life Of Von and commented:
    “There is no universally accepted diagnostic protocol for RAD. Signs and symptoms may include withdrawal from others, fear, sadness and irritability; listlessness; a failure to smile; avoidance of social interaction; a failure to reach out to others; and a lack of interest in interactive games.” So that’s my problem!!

  4. RAD is a horrifying diagnosis invented by adoptive parents who don’t understand the natural resistance of children not raised by their own families. As adoptees, we must challenge those who determine that we are the ones who are broken; that our inability to adapt to an alien environment is our fault. Furthermore, a RAD diagnosis serves as the reasoning behind some of the most egregious child abuse known to humankind that is sold as “therapy”. Those who perpetuate this type of victimization are abetting a criminality that we would be much better off without.

    See also:
    Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD): the alienation and resistance of the adoptee.

    • Judith Land says:

      Thanks for sharing this article. Your comment that RAD might better be stated as an acronym that stands for “Resistance Against Domination” is perceptive. There is a wide audience for information that is accurate and insightful that provides a deeper understanding of the consequences and collateral effects of an adoption for those who need it the most.

  5. M M says:

    This is me. I have never talked about it because it is painful. I feel no connections with people. My parents got me at 12 days old. They were/are very loving and affectionate. When I was 2 I got very sick and had to be hospitalized. The treatment was painful and traumatizing but my parents felt the doctors knew what to do. After 2-3 days of this my father told them to stop and find another way. All I know is since I can remember I never really trusted them to do what was best for me. I was a VERY angry child. We could say I hated them. As far as others, no connections. No real friends. I do not FEEL loved even though I know my parents and husband love me. It is only a knowing. I feel very alone.

    • Judith Land says:

      I love M&M’s

      “Dissociation” is a common psychological response to the trauma of the loss of the original maternal bond. The latent effects of the emotional pain caused by early childhood attachment loss are known to be deep-rooted, long-lasting, and profound.

      The tipping point on the scale of life determines the contrast between enjoying the sunshine and drinking moonshine by the weight of a single grain of sand. Why not dare to dream, take a chance, and challenge fate? Learn to seek mercy and forgiveness and steer clear of moody weather, that gives birth to endless blackened nights. Learn how to practice “grounding techniques” that will help you see delight above your head in ephemeral clouds building shifting canyons and valleys in darkened thunderous gray and brilliant wispy white and imagine a day when everything turns out all right.


  6. Pingback: Adoption – Staying afloat | Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child

  7. Pingback: Adoption—Trauma and Dissociation | Adoption Detective: Memoir of an Adopted Child

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