At Sundance Canyon Academy, we work with numerous students who have developed Reactive Attachment Disorder. We are writing on the topic today to help parents understand what causes Reactive Attachment Disorder, how to notice it in your child, and what to do if you suspect that your child has Reactive Attachment Disorder.
Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is most often found in children who did not grow up in a safe, loving household. Kids who have RAD did not get the chance to form a secure bond with their caregivers while they were babies, so they don’t feel secure even as they grow up. This is common in households with chronic substance abuse, physical or emotional abuse, and physical or emotional neglect.
Some common situations that lead to the development of RAD include:
Being left to cry when hungry, scared, or in pain
Sporadically having their needs met (i.e., mom sometimes feeds the baby when he’s hungry. Other times, she lets him cry and ignores him.)
Being left alone rather than being held or having any interaction with a caregiver
Going hungry for long periods
Experiencing traumatic events as a young child
Being neglected as a young child or only getting attention when acting out
Moving through many foster care homes or orphanages as a child
Experiencing physical abuse at the hands of a caregiver (i.e., someone who they should be able to count on for their basic needs)
Common symptoms associated with Reactive Attachment Disorder in teens
Children who grow up with unreliable caregivers don’t develop the emotional regulation common for kids in their age range. Since they don’t know what to expect, they don’t feel like they can fully trust anything or anyone. Kids who develop RAD often grow up to show emotions in inappropriate ways.
If your teen grew up in an environment like the omens listed above and shows some of these symptoms, they may have RAD.
Not showing remorse. Kids who grow up without a secure attachment learn to do whatever’s in their best interest. They don’t have a good bond with the person who should care about them the most, so they don’t develop empathy the way they should. They may do things that hurt others (physically or emotionally) and have no guilt about their actions. Even when caught in the act of doing something wrong, they may claim innocence and show zero remorse for their actions.
Showing inappropriate anger. Everyone gets angry from time to time. Kids with RAD are more likely to become angry quickly and to overreact to situations. They might yell, hit, throw things, destroy property, or hurt themselves and others.
Showing fake emotions. Teens who have developed RAD may not have learned to feel the same way as their peers in social situations. However, they may have learned how to mimic feeling the way they “should.” Their interactions may come off as being shallow or phony. They may also struggle with having deep conversations or talking about their feelings.
Having difficulty connecting with others. Teens with RAD can struggle to make genuine connections with others, especially with their parents and caregivers. They may even seem to connect with other adults but withdraw from you at home. You may notice that they don’t make eye contact and are particularly uncomfortable with physical touch. Conversely, they may seem overly sexual for their age or develop inappropriate sexual relationships with others.
Annoying peers and adults. Kids who don’t grow up feeling like they belong at home can learn that they get attention when they act out. If they annoy their parents, they can get some form of attention. So, teens with RAD can display socially annoying behavior like asking questions with obvious answers, talking all the time, complaining all the time, or trying to take charge over their peers.
Being deceitful. Kids with RAD are more likely to be deceitful and try to get their way. They also might not show the emotions that you would expect of someone who is being sneaky. Teens with RAD might steal and blatantly lie about it. They might even lie habitually, even when everyone around them knows that they’re lying.
Teens with Reactive Attachment Disorder benefit from receiving professional intervention. If you suspect that your child might have RAD, speak with your child’s doctor about it. They can rule out other possible issues and offer quality treatment options.
If your teen son is diagnosed with RAD, he may benefit from attending a therapeutic boarding school to receive the support needed to make emotional connections with others. By attending individual and group therapy sessions, your teen can address the root issues and learn to interact with others. Contact us today to find out how we can help your teen.