What Is Reactive Attachment Disorder?

What Is Reactive Attachment Disorder?

Reactive attachment disorder, also known as RAD, is a mood or behavioral disorder that affects babies and children. It involves difficulties with bonding and forming relationships, as well as having social patterns that are not appropriate, but without an intellectual disability or pervasive developmental disorder (such as autism ) to explain these characteristics.1

Additionally, reactive attachment disorder is caused by some type of issue with care, such as caregivers being unable to fully provide for the needs of the child, not fulfilling physical and emotional needs, inconsistency, or too many primary caregiver changes.

The term “reactive attachment disorder” is sometimes shortened to “attachment disorder,” but reactive attachment disorder is actually a type of attachment disorder, aquaARTS studio / Getty Images Reactive Attachment Disorder vs. Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder

Attachment disorders are sometimes described as being inhibited or disinhibited. These terms are used to describe the behaviors of babies and young children.

Children who fall into the category of inhibited struggle to regulate their emotions, do not prefer any specific adult or caregiver, do not seek caregiver comfort, or do not show much affection, or they display a combination of these behaviors.2 On the other hand, children who fall into the category of disinhibited may engage or overly engage with all adults evenly, including strangers, and they do not prefer primary caregivers.

Reactive attachment disorder is the inhibited type of attachment disorder. There used to be only one diagnosis for both inhibited and disinhibited attachment, but that has changed with more recent research. The disinhibited type of attachment disorder is called disinhibited social engagement disorder, or DSED.1 Characteristics

The characteristics of reactive attachment disorder are the inhibited type, meaning that the child behaves in ways that show little or no attachment to parents or other caregivers. This is seen in babies and young children. They are not able to bond with their parents or primary caregivers in a way that is healthy and secure.3 Reactive Attachment Disorder Symptoms

Symptoms of RAD include:

  • Avoidance of comfort when distressed
  • Avoidance of physical touch
  • Difficulty managing emotions
  • Not being affected when left alone
  • Not making eye contact, smiling, or engaging
  • Emotional detachment
  • Excessive rocking or self-comforting Inability to show guilt, remorse, or regret
  • Inconsolable crying Little or no interest in interaction with others
  • Need to be in control
  • Tantrums, anger, sadness

Diagnosis Reactive attachment disorder can be diagnosed by a mental health professional such as a psychiatrist or psychologist specializing in children. They do this by assessing the child based on the fifth edition of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” ( DSM-5 ) diagnostic criteria. Then they assess the child in terms of how the symptoms affect their ability to function.4 […]

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