What is reactive attachment disorder?

Attachment disorder is the inability to form loving and lasting relationships, to give or receive love or affection, form a conscience, or trust others. Attachment difficulties are on a continuum of disturbance that range from attachment issues all the way to reactive attachment disorder. Reactive attachment disorder falls under many names and categories.

In children, these names include:

  • Reactive attachment disorder or RAD
  • Attachment disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Childhood trauma
  • PDD
  • Pervasive development delay

In adults, these names include:

  • Borderline personality
  • Histrionic personality
  • Antisocial personality
  • Narcissistic personality
  • Dependent personality
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder

What causes reactive attachment disorder?

The attachments we form as humans early on critically impact our entire lives. If we form healthy and consistent bonds early on, healthy attachments most often continue. When a child misses that window of opportunity, reactive attachment disorder is a likely result.

We are not typically born with reactive attachment disorder. Reactive attachment disorder occurs when a child misses the chance to bond with an adult. Sometimes, that happens before birth due to maternal drug or alcohol use. Other times, babies miss the chance to bond with their mothers due to illness on behalf of mother or baby. More often, reactive attachment disorder begins after birth and within the first three years of life.

Symptoms of adult attachment problems:

  • Difficulty handling conflict with other adults
  • Denies responsibility for wrong-doing
  • Controls others through manipulative or overtly hostile ways
  • Trouble showing empathy, remorse, trust or compassion with others
  • Lack of the ability to give or receive genuine affection or love. Relates sexual behavior to feelings of acceptance or closeness
  • Resistant to efforts on behalf of others to nurture or guide them
  • Lacks cause and effect thinking, especially when around normal thinking
  • Acts out negatively and provokes anger in others
  • Lies, steals, cheats and/or manipulates
  • Destructive, cruel, argumentative and/or hostile
  • Lacks self-control. Impulsive.
  • Superficially charming and engaging
  • Behaves in anger to protect feelings of sadness or fear
  • Feels isolated and depressed
  • Feels frustrated and stressed
  • Addictive behavior i.e. substance abuse, sex addiction, work addiction, gambling addiction, etc.
  • Behaves hyper-vigilantly and agitated and has trouble concentrating
  • Confused, puzzled and obsessed with finding answers
  • Feels blamed by family, friends, and professionals
  • Feels helpless, hopeless, and angry
  • Feels that helping professionals minimize his or her family problems

    Source:  http://instituteforattachment.org/learn-about-attachment-disorder/common-questions/

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)


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