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Reactive Attachment Disorder | How is it Affecting Your Infant?

Reactive Attachment Disorder | How is it Affecting Your Infant?

Reactive Attachment Disorder | How is it Affecting Your Infant?


From the time they are born, babies rely on parents or other adults for protection, care, and other basic physical and emotional needs. As the essential wants and needs are met during the growth and developmental years of young ones, a bond or attachment is formed with the person fulfilling their demands. This kind of attachment helps children learn how to love and trust others, depend on their emotions, and recognize others’ feelings as well. It helps them develop other healthy bonds with people apart from those who care for them.

Some children, however, are unable to form an attachment with an adult in the early years. Called attachment disorder, the condition may result due to various reasons. It may be that the child was abandoned, isolated or uncared for when crying, hungry, or in need of changing. It may also be caused by physical abuse, frequent change of caregiver, or long separation from the parents. The lack of attachment can be the result of unavoidable circumstances which may be too complex for a baby to understand. Detachment becomes an instinctive reaction by a young child who feels there’s no one to depend on in a world that is an unsafe place to be.


When Attachment Disorder Turns Serious

A more serious issue of the condition comes in the form of reactive attachment disorder (RAD). Considered uncommon, RAD occurs when a child experiences physical and emotional neglect or abuse. The disorder develops when the child’s need for nurturing, affection and comfort were not provided. The signs and symptoms vary depending on the two types of reactive attachment disorder: inhibited and disinhibited.

The inhibited symptoms are manifested in the extreme withdrawal and emotional detachment of the affected child. There is the tendency to push people away and resist any form of comfort. Although the child may appear disinterested to what is happening around, he or she is often hyper-vigilant of the surroundings. In contrast, children with disinhibited symptoms are likely to seek comfort from anyone, except their parents. They act younger than their age and are highly dependent on others.

RAD usually presents itself at age five, thus the symptoms are difficult to discern in infants. Indications, however, may include listlessness, lack of interest in playthings, and no desire to be picked up. In older children, RAD can be generally observed as the difficulty in showing affection and with their anger. The outbursts are often aggressive and directed to their peers.


The Outlook for Reactive Attachment Disorder

Reactive attachment disorder is relatively a new health issue accepted in the DSM-5 that can be applied to infants. Although a few long-term studies have been conducted about the disorder, medical practitioners know that if RAD is left untreated, it can impact a child’s emotional, social and behavioral development negatively. A young person with RAD has higher risk for a number of behavioral and emotional health problems later in life, ranging from depression to learning difficulties, low self-esteem, relationship issues and social difficulties.

RAD is a lasting condition, but if the attachment issues are recognized early enough and given appropriate treatment and support, it can be potentially avoided. The outlook for a child affected with RAD is good if the right treatment program is made available. While the effects of RAD are long-lasting and in some cases, never dissipate on their own, it is never too late to seek treatment to ensure a better chance for the child’s recovery.


Deciding on the Best Treatment Option for Your Child with RAD

If you suspect your child is struggling with either the inhibited or disinhibited symptoms of RAD, it is important to seek the help of a specialist. A professional will perform some tests to identify the underlying cause in order to determine the right treatment plan for your child.

Since RAD is a condition acquired during critical periods of brain development, there is no magical treatment or medication that can instantly cure the disorder. When you seek help from Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC, the independently contracted therapists will be honest in telling you this piece of information at the very start. You’ll be guided in understanding how some therapies may be helpful in treating or reducing the symptoms.

After thoroughly evaluating your child, the right fit therapist independently contracted with Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC will recommend the most appropriate treatment option, depending on your child’s circumstances. This may include behavioral therapy, child counseling, family therapy, and play therapy. The therapist will guide you in deciding which treatment plan is most beneficial for your child.

It is indeed devastating, frustrating and emotionally trying to a parent of a child with RAD. Although it may take a considerable amount of time, effort and patience, rebuilding the bond with your child is possible. With help from an experienced counselor/therapist independently contracted with CCS – Pinehurst, NC, your child will learn to trust again and feel that he or she is loved. Call now to request appointment.


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Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

Counties: Moore county, NC, Lee County, Hoke County, Chatham County

Areas: Pinehurst NC, West End NC, Taylortown NC, Seven Lakes NC, Eagle Springs NC, Jackson Springs NC, Foxfire NC, Candor NC, Norman NC, Ellerbe NC, Rockingham NC

Zip Codes: 27281, 27376, 28315, 28347, 28350, 28373, 28374, 28387, 28388, 28394

Kelly ErkenBrack, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 3+) Children, Teens, Adults, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Mood Disorders, Trauma, Adjustments and Life Transitions, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting, Relationship Concerns, Self Esteem
Insurance: BCBSTricare Prime/Select, Medicare and Cash
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Location: Pinehurst, NC

Robin Caswell, MSW, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 5+), Individuals, Adults, Anxiety, Depression, Grief, Loss, ADHD, ODD, Trauma/PTSD, LGBTQ, Self-Harm, Military Family Life, Mood Disorders, OCD, Phobias
Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare and Cash
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Location: Pinehurst, NC

Counseling Information

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Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

45 Dowd Circle Suite 5
PinehurstNC 28374

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PO BOX 9909
Fayetteville, NC 28311