What is Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)?

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) occurs primarily in kids who have been unable to form an emotionally healthy attachment to their primary caregivers, usually before the age of five. In older children and adults, it can present in behaviors ranging from aggressive behavior to extreme withdrawal. In every case, it is characterized by an inability to form healthy attachments to anyone. Attachment typically develops when a young child is comforted, soothed and consistently cared for by their mother or other caregiver. It is through this loving attachment that children first learn to trust, become aware of others, regulate emotions and set the basis for developing healthy relationships. When this attachment is disturbed or absent, it can cause repercussions that can last an entire lifetime.

RAD presents in two different ways: inhibited and disinhibited. Symptoms of inhibited RAD include : resistance to comforting, detached or suppressed emotions, withdrawn or avoidant personality. Disinhibited RAD symptoms include : acting out, risk taking behaviors, aggression, low self esteem and inability to connect with others or show empathy. Both types of RAD can cause an extremely negative impact on emotional, physical, social and behavioral development if left untreated.

There are many ways in which RAD can be triggered in young children. For instance, the loss of a parent or constantly changing primary caregivers can be the cause. Negligent care or persistent disregard for a child's physical and emotional needs is also a major factor in occurrences. Although there is no physical test that specifically diagnoses RAD, doctors are becoming more aware of the symptoms. Once they have ruled out physical illness, it can be diagnosed as a mental disorder based on patient history as well as current attitude and behavior.

There is no definitive cure for RAD, however, there are many treatment options. These involve making the environment feel safe and secure as well as regular counseling to treat the ongoing symptoms. Truly effective treatment often focuses on both the child and the current caregiver, as they will need to work to develop an attachment. Medication may be used to treat the more extreme symptoms of RAD, but it will not cure the disorder itself. Treatment of RAD is a continuous process and the earlier a child is diagnosed and begins gaining the tools he needs to work around the disorder, the greater the likelihood of a successful adulthood.

RAD can have a negative impact on a child's environment and development if not properly diagnosed and treated. It is a disorder that can worsen the longer it remains unaddressed. At Liahona Academy, we have developed programs that target the concerns and symptoms associated with RAD. Our experienced therapists will work with your son to help him learn to deal with the day to day challenges he faces in a positive way. If you are concerned about your son or if he has been diagnosed with RAD, contact us for more information on how we can help him kick start his treatment and begin living a healthier life. 1-800-675-8101.

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