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You and Your Child: Battling Reactive Attachment Disorder Early

You and Your Child: Battling Reactive Attachment Disorder Early


You and Your Child:

Battling Reactive Attachment Disorder Early


“Nothing else can produce the joy or broken heart that motherhood allows. I couldn’t imagine going through life without feeling that spectrum of emotion. There are wonderful days when I feel my cup runneth over. There are days that I want to run away and question every decision I have ever made. Feeling it all, good or bad, gives my life purpose. Motherhood is walking around with all of your nerve endings raw and exposed. It is the most extreme measure of being alive,” gushes Vivienne Borne, a mother from Maryland.

Borne perfectly captures what many mothers and fathers feel about parenthood. Parenting is noble. It is a selfless task that you want to do as flawlessly as possible. Despite the sacrifices it demands, it can endow you with immense joy and give meaning and purpose to your existence. It is thus a great source of happiness.

Just as parenthood can fill you with happiness you didn’t know was possible, it can also be a cause of great fear, desperation, frustration, hopelessness, and helplessness. A diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) in your child can break your heart, but hang in there, because it is treatable. Start with understanding the condition and seeking help from a qualified child therapist. The sooner you recognize the signs that your little one needs professional help, the higher the chance of recovery.


What Is RAD?

According to Maureen E. Wood of the Rochester Institute of Technology, “Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is one of the few disorders listed in the DSM-IV that can be applied to infants. It is a disorder caused by a lack of attachment to any specific caregiver at an early age, and results in an inability for the child to form normal, loving relationships with others.” The Mayo Clinic says it is a rare condition that can start anytime between infancy and five years of age, and involves the inability to establish a healthy relationship with parents or caregivers. It isn’t certain whether it can develop in an older child.

Johnna Medina of PsychCentral says that “children with reactive attachment disorder are believed to have the capacity to form selective attachments.” This is based on the fact that they don’t have any medical or neurological impairment. What is perceived as a trigger for this condition is “limited healthy physical contact and nurturance during early development (e.g, neglect).”


What Can Lead to It?

Parents may not directly cause a child’s RAD. Also, adoptive parents may find that their child suffers from this.  If you are busy or constantly away and your young child is left with another caregiver most of the time, there is a higher risk that your child’s needs for affection, care, and comfort may not be satisfactorily met. According to WebMD, “RAD occurs when attachment between a young child and his or her primary caregiver does not occur or is interrupted due to grossly negligent care.” Specifically, WebMD cited the following causes/reasons:

  • Persistent disregard of the child’s emotional needs for comfort, stimulation, and affection
  • Persistent disregard of the child’s basic physical needs
  • Repeated changes of primary caregivers that prevent formation of stable attachments (for example, frequent changes in foster care)


What Are Signs and Symptoms to Note?

You don’t want to see your child suffer, so when should you seek the help of a professional therapist? What are the symptoms to pay attention to?

The Mayo Clinic suggests that you look for the following signs and symptoms of RAD:

  • Withdrawal, fear, sadness, or irritability that is not readily explained
  • Sad and listless appearance
  • Not seeking comfort or showing no response when comfort is given
  • Failure to smile
  • Watching others closely but not engaging in social interaction
  • Failing to ask for support or assistance
  • Failure to reach out when picked up
  • No interest in playing peekaboo or other interactive games


Why Seek Professional Help?

Not every child who manifests the above symptoms is struggling with RAD; there can be other possibilities or diagnoses, such as autism or pediatric depression. The behavior may also be just a function of your baby’s personality or natural character, or something they will grow out of in time. Since RAD is a rare condition, it could be counterproductive to jump to any morbid or negative conclusion.

The best way to ascertain your child’s condition is to bring him/her to a capable therapist contracted with Carolina Counseling Services — Pinehurst, NC, for a proper evaluation of the symptoms. If indeed your child has Reactive Attachment Disorder, you can trust the therapists at CCS to help. They can also empower you as a parent to ably journey with your child.

There is a good chance that your little one can recover from this condition with proper help. Medicine Plus says, “The right intervention can improve the outcome.”  


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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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Fayetteville, NC 28311