If your child has trust issues, behaves unreasonably with frequent outbursts and you feel he/she is emotionally detached, then check out if he/she has reactive attachment disorder.

Reactive Attachment Disorder

Described in all clinical literature, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is a severe and relatively uncommon disorder that can affect children. Characterized by markedly disturbed and inappropriate ways of relating socially, RAD gives way to persistent failure to initiate and respond to most social interactions in a developmentally appropriate way known as the inhibited form or can present itself as indiscriminate sociability, such as excessive familiarity with relative strangers known as the disinhibited form. RAD is caused by lack of attachment with any specific caregivers at an early age (infancy) resulting in the inability of the child to form normal and loving relationships with others. Children with RAD are presumed to have disturbed internal working models of relationships, which may lead to interpersonal and behavioral difficulties at the later stages of their life. It’s important to understand what causes reactive attachment disorder in children, through what symptoms it is recognized, and how it must be treated or dealt with.
Causes Of Reactive Attachment Disorder
RAD occurs when children, right from infancy, have been unable to emotionally connect to the parents or caregivers; reasons being:
  • Loss of parents - being orphaned at a very early age and left with receiving care from many, prevents the baby to form any real connection with a single caregiver.
  • Neglect - being unattended for hours when the baby is wet or hungry, when the baby cries and no one offers comfort, nobody looks, talks or smiles at the baby, and if the parents or caregivers lack parenting skills.
  • Abuse - being abused by parents or caregivers by portraying aggressive behavior towards the need of the children.
  • Inexperienced/Inappropriate Parenting - parents may be too young at age and thus, may lack parenting skills or maybe suffering from some mental illness. Drug and alcohol addiction, or going through depression is yet another reason.
  • Child Related Factors - such as premature birth, suffering from painful and undiagnosed illness, or suffering from birth and prenatal trauma.
Symptoms Of Reactive Attachment Disorder
Inhibited Form
  • Avoids physical and eye contact
  • Avoids comfort and affection
  • Prefers to play alone
  • Detached
  • Doesn’t give care to hygiene
  • Engages in self gratifying behavior
Disinhibited Form
  • Seek comfort from strangers
  • Inappropriate childish behavior
  • Wild behavior when upset
  • Demands help for doing tasks
  • Low self esteem
  • Alienate themselves from presence of parents of caregivers
  • Lies constantly
  • Afraid of trusting others and offering and receiving affection
  • Frequently avoids eating; even hides and throws away food when offered
  • Fascinated towards blood and gore and destructive video games
  • Frequent emotional outbursts
  • Abnormal speech patterns
  • Inability to learn from mistakes
  • Behavioral problems at school
  • Cruel towards animals
  • Treating a patient with reactive attachment disorder has not fared well with psychologists, as children suffering from it have serious trust issues and abhor the changes in the routine. But, there’s still a lot you can do as a parent that will make your child feel loved and cared for.
  • Set or limit boundaries regarding your child’s behavior in a loving way. Let your child know what behavior is acceptable and what behavior will be taken as unacceptable and what may be the consequences of it. Let them know in a quiet and gentle way what is expected out of them.
  • Try to remain calm and in charge of the situation if your child misbehaves, rather than giving into the emotions and screaming at him/her. Show your child that it is manageable and can be dealt with in a calmer way. Don’t try to discipline your child through yelling, as this will make him/her feel even more unsafe and have deeper trust issues.
  • If you end up disciplining your child, always try to make amends by going back to him/her and reconnecting yourself with the child, letting him/her know that you’re not going to leave no matter what and will always love the same. This will help your child strengthen his/her trust.
  • If you end up letting your charged up emotions dictate terms, always recognize this as a mistake and accept it by communicating to your child that you were wrong to scream at him/her and take responsibility for it. This will help strengthen your bond with the child.
  • Try to maintain routines and schedules without much changes or inclusion of something new, even if it may sound fun for your child. Trust issues may come in the way of having fun as the change may be perceived as a threat by your child.
  • Children with reactive attachment disorder often act younger than their age. As a result, you have to respond to them in a way as if they were younger so that they could feel you connect to them.
  • It may be hard leaving everything unattended and trying to connect to them free of mind, but do so as often as possible. Just listening to your child, talking and playing will allow your child to open up and feel your unhindered care and warmth.
It all comes down to making amends for what your child missed out on as an infant. Make your child feel loved, wanted, cared for, and well looked after; and he/she will let go off all the irrationality and will embrace you with unadulterated love.

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