Babies and young children can develop reactive attachment disorder when they do not properly bond with parents or caregivers. The condition sometimes manifests in those who do not have stable parental figures as infants, such as orphans, those in foster care and even those with mothers with serious postpartum depression. The child’s most fundamental needs for affection, nurturing and comfort are not met. Neglected or abused children might also suffer from RAD.
Originally identified in 1979, RAD children might suffer from internally suppressed rage, so their conscience does not properly develop. In some cases, the disorder might progress so that these children grow up to become psychopaths or sociopaths.
STATISTICS ON REACTIVE ATTACHMENT DISORDER IN THE UNITED STATES AMONG TEENS
Few studies have been done on RAD in teens in the United States. RAD is widely debated as a disorder that only exists in young children; but, left unresolved, signs and symptoms of RAD can carry over into teen and even adult years. However, in a study of foster children in Europe, 19.4 percent suffered from RAD. Of these, nearly 60 percent had additional disorders as listed in the DSM-IV. These numbers increased across the board when the children were seriously neglected, had an increase in prior placements or were exposed to violence.
RECEIVING A PROFESSIONAL DIAGNOSIS OF REACTIVE ATTACHMENT DISORDER
The American Psychiatric Association has specific criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnosis RAD. This includes:
- Consistent emotional withdrawal from parents/caregivers
- Continued emotional and social behaviors typical of the disorder
- Refusal to let caregivers meet emotional needs, especially for comfort and affection
- A child who is not autistic
- Other issues should be ruled out before pursuing a possible diagnosis of RAD.
RAD should be diagnosed by a professional after a thorough physical and psychiatric examination from a child psychiatrist. The doctor might include the following steps:
- Compilation of information on the child’s behavior
- Specific examples of the child’s behavior
- Professional observation of the interaction between the child and parents/caregivers
- An in-depth assessment of the child, home and living situation.
- A thorough evaluation of parenting abilities.
What Does Reactive Attachment Disorder Look Like?
Parents see the following behaviors in their afflicted children, beginning as early as age 1:
- Refuses comfort
- Unresponsive, detached
- Withdrawal in social settings
- No boundaries with strangers
- Cannot be calmed by the caregiver if upset
- Irritable, afraid or sad
- Failure to gain weight
- Feeding difficulties and/or serious colic
- Possible neglect or abuse
- Overly talkative
What Does Reactive Attachment Disorder Feel Like?
While teens experience similar feelings as those of parents, they suffer more since they are the one who is going through the disorder. However, they might struggle to verbalize those feelings and the related frustrations.
- Difficult to connect with others
- Easy to pretend to charm others
- Extreme lying
- Learning delays
- Difficulty with peers
- Difficult to maintain eye contact
- No desire to hug or be affectionate with parents
- Binge eating and/or refusing to eat
- Preoccupied with violence and/or fire
HOW TEENS WITH RAD CAN HELP THEMSELVES
Teens can help themselves by doing the following:
- Develop improved relationship with parent/caregiver
- Play/art therapy to express feelings in a safe place
- Family counseling
- Set up a stable routine
- Watch diet – limit fast foods and processed foods; opt for healthy foods instead
- Exercise to improve overall health and fitness levels
- Individual counseling
- Medication as needed, especially when co-occurring conditions are present
HOW YOU CAN HELP YOUR TEEN WITH REACTIVE ATTACHMENT DISORDER
Parents can help their teen by:
- Parent/guardian education
- Family counseling
- Reassure teen of your unconditional love
SUNDANCE CANYON ACADEMY HELPS TEEN BOYS WITH REACTIVE ATTACHMENT DISORDER
With a unique approach to tackling reactive detachment disorder, Sundance Canyon Academy uses education and therapy in an effective and holistic treatment model to bring healing to teen boys. We focus on instilling independence and self-respect in your son, offering him the necessary tools that he needs to lead a successful life upon completion of our program. We do not use aggressive behavior modification techniques and instead dig much deeper to find the route cause of negative behavior.
Our licensed staff demonstrates kindness and sensitivity while holding youth accountable for their choices. As we show trust in your son, he will learn to show trust in himself and others. In order to demonstrate the value each child possesses, we use unconditional concern, validation, active listening, reflection and much more. This adjustment to perspective provides new motivation that can propel him toward change.
We integrate schooling, counseling and outside activities as part of our holistic approach. We also encourage parental involvement so that your son can continue his recovery once he moves into treatment and then returns home. Therapy includes personal and group therapy along with family sessions and psychiatric help when needed. We address numerous interventions common to struggling teens, specifically Adoption and Attachment. When you son completes his time at Sundance Canyon Academy, we will work with your family to successfully transition him back home.