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The Causes, Symptoms, and Effects of Reactive Attachment Disorder

If your child has been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), you need to understand what to expect. Parenting a child with RAD requires extra patience and attention. Due to things beyond your control, they might not react the way you hope they will. If you have trouble getting through to your son with RAD, contact us today.

What is RAD?

RAD is a mental health disorder characterized by difficulty connecting with others. If you are adopting or raising a teenager with RAD, they come with a history that makes it challenging for them to relate to you. It can be tough to parent a child with RAD.

The signs and symptoms of RAD can be similar to those of other mental health conditions. Sometimes, RAD co-exists with other mental health conditions, and sometimes it stands alone. If you suspect that your teen has RAD, they should be examined by a medical professional for diagnosis.

Children and teens with RAD tend to have problems at home, in school, and friendships. Though they might seem friendly and outgoing upon first meeting them, deeper relationships tend to break down. Thankfully, the symptoms of RAD in teens can improve with the proper treatment.

Causes and Risk Factors

It is uncertain what exactly causes RAD in children. However, almost all children with RAD have experienced some form of neglect and/or abuse during early childhood. At a time when they relied on an adult the most, the adult wasn’t fully there for them.

Children learn to rely on their caregivers during early childhood and form deep emotional attachments to their caregivers. When their caregivers don’t provide for them, children don’t develop those attachments the way they should. Though some kids seem resilient and come out of abusive or neglectful situations well, others do not. Some kids who are neglected or abused in early childhood develop RAD and struggle with interpersonal connections.

Some common causes and risk factors leading to RAD include:

  1. Not being fed reliably

  2. Being left with a soiled diaper or clothes for a long time

  3. Being left alone for long periods

  4. Not being held or comforted when in distress

  5. Being shuffled from home to home in orphanages or foster care

  6. Having parents who are addicts

  7. Having parents with severe mental health issues

  8. Having family services involved in removing them from their family

  9. Experiencing physical, verbal, or sexual abuse

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of RAD in teenagers can vary a little bit. Though, the signs and symptoms come back to a lack of connection in every situation.

Some common signs and symptoms of RAD in teens include:

  1. Struggling to make eye contact

  2. Not being physically affectionate with family but open with others

  3. Being overly affectionate with strangers or acquaintances

  4. Seeming very charming but fake

  5. Being withdrawn and refusing to spend time with others

  6. Engages in attention-seeking behavior

  7. Purposefully annoying others

  8. Being destructive to others’ property

  9. Asking questions that they blatantly know the answer to

  10. Reacting with more aggression than a situations warrants

  11. Displaying emotions incongruous with the situation

The signs and symptoms of RAD can be very similar to those of other mental health conditions like ADHD, depression, anxiety, and autism. Also, teens with RAD can have other mental health conditions or struggles related to their upbringing. If your child displays emotions or behavior in line with RAD, and they were raised with neglect or abuse, consult a medical professional for treatment.

Effects of RAD

Children and teens need to learn to connect with others even if they were not raised with that connection. Otherwise, they can struggle with interpersonal relationships throughout their lives. If left untreated, the effects of RAD in teens can last long into adulthood.

Common effects of RAD in adulthood include:

  1. Having marital or romantic issues

  2. Having trouble with coworkers and supervisors

  3. Being fired or missing out on promotions due to interpersonal issues

  4. Lack of education due to disruption in school during adolescence

  5. Legal problems resulting from anger issues

  6. Developing addition problems

  7. Developing anxiety or depression

Treating RAD

Teens with RAD can be treated with outpatient therapy or with inpatient therapy. They can still live at home and go to school like usual, and they can see a therapist regularly to work on their attachment problems. If your home life is stable and your teen isn’t getting into trouble, outpatient therapy could be a good fit.

Residential treatment centers tend to be a better fit for teens with RAD who are getting into trouble at school, losing control of their emotions, or behaving in dangerous ways. The additional therapy and structure provided at an inpatient program can also be helpful for teens who have other mental health problems and RAD.

Call us at 866-640-1899 for more information about treatment for teen boys with RAD.

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