My Brother Has RAD – What Does It Mean?

At Sundance Canyon Academy, we focus on a family-centered therapy approach. When teens come to our school for help, we know that there are other members of the family who have been affected by our new student’s behavior. We are writing on this topic to help siblings who have a brother with RAD understand the diagnosis and make sense of their brother’s behavior. Contact us today for more information about treatment options for teens with RAD.

Sibling relationships can be tough. You might argue with each other, and you almost certainly get on each other’s nerves from time to time. Ideally, you love each other and get along more often than you fight, and you always have each other’s backs when it counts. Sibling relationships are the first real friendships you form in many families, and those bonds often last forever.

This isn’t the case for all families, though. Sibling relationships aren’t always friendly and wonderful. Sometimes the relationship with your sibling can be rocky and distressing. You might not feel like you can trust your sibling, or you might feel like they don’t care about anyone else in the family. You might even feel like your brother is dangerous or like he wants to make your life miserable.

When your sibling’s behavior is causing trouble within the family, you’ve also felt the impact of it. You may not have always understood what was going on, but you knew that his actions have made life tough for everyone. If your brother was recently diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), his diagnosis will explain some of his behavior.

What is RAD?

RAD is a disorder that stems from abuse or neglect during early childhood. When babies or toddlers live in an unstable environment, they might not bond with their caregivers the way they should. When this happens, the child begins to develop without learning how to connect with other people properly.

As the child continues to grow up, RAD can cause many behavioral problems that can wreak havoc in a family.

Some common symptoms of RAD in teens are:

  1. Struggling to connect with parents and siblings

  2. Having an easier time connecting with strangers than with family

  3. Not making eye contact during conversations

  4. Being likable, but their behavior is fake

  5. Having a hard time forming deep relationships. Relationships stay superficial.

  6. Refusing to take ownership for their bad behavior

  7. Getting defensive about any level of criticism

  8. Being vindictive or spiteful

  9. Holding a grudge for a long time

  10. Acting in a way that purposefully upsets other people or damages their belongings

  11. Purposefully annoying other people

What causes RAD?

Children need to know that they can count on their caregivers to take care of them. Babies and toddlers are too young to care for themselves, so they depend on someone else for even the most basic needs. When young children spend a lot of time with an unreliable caregiver, their brain doesn’t form the connections that most babies form when relying on other people.

Some typical situations that can lead to RAD include:

  1. Not always being fed when hungry

  2. Being left in a dirty diaper for far too long

  3. Not being comforted when crying

  4. Inconsistent care from their caregiver (i.e., sometimes the adult responds and sometimes they don’t)

  5. The caregiver is absent either physically or mentally (i.e., either they aren’t there or they are mentally absent from substance abuse or mental illness)

  6. Being left alone for extended periods of time

  7. Rarely being picked up or held

When young children don’t form the bonds they need, they can forever struggle to connect with others. The first relationship a baby makes is with its caregiver. If that first relationship is botched, it can have major impacts on relationships for the rest of the child’s life.

Being the sibling of a brother who has RAD

If your brother has RAD, you have probably endured a lot of difficult situations caused by your brother’s actions. Though having RAD isn’t an excuse for his behavior, it can help explain it. Overcoming the symptoms of RAD isn’t easy to do, but it is possible to learn how to live with RAD and start connecting with others.

If your brother is attending a residential treatment center, he can get the help he needs to address the roots of his behavior. Of course, he won’t be able to go back and change his childhood, but he can learn to change his thought patterns and behavior. With treatment, teens with RAD can learn to make changes so they can return home and improve their family life.

For more information about treatment options for teen boys with Reactive Attachment Disorder, call us at 866-255-3708.

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