What is Reactive Attachment Disorder?

When it comes to trauma and stress disorders, people always tend to think of post traumatic stress disorder, but the truth is there are many others that you should be aware of. Reactive Attachment Disorder or RAD used to be in the DSM-5 as a disorder with two sub-types but has currently been updated to two complete and separate disorders.

RAD refers to people who are withdrawn emotionally, the exhibit an inhibited phenotype. Those who fall under DSES or uninhibited social engagement disorder, are those who are “an indiscriminately social/uninhibited phenotype.

People who struggle with RAD often experience:

- Behavior that is emotionally withdrawn

- Social/emotional disturbances

- Fearfulness, sadness

- Irritability, limited affect, or reduced responsiveness

- Have often been neglected, deprived, or reared in unusual situations or with multiple changes in caregivers

Those suffering from DSES often experience:

- Interactions with unfamiliar adults can lead to reduced or an absence of reticence

- Exhibit behavior that’s social disinhibited and/or impulsive

- Have often been exposed to insufficient care to the extreme – repeated changes in caregivers, social deprivation/neglect, or rearing in unusual settings

Attachment is what connects caregivers to children with deep emotion and it has a huge effect on a child’s development as well as developing their ability to express emotion and form attachments later in life.

Caregivers can often come into have children with attachment disorders that struggle with making that connection due to things that have happened early in the child’s life. For example, when children are passed from one caregiver to another repeatedly, such as when they move around a lot in the foster care system and then become adopted later. Because the child didn’t connect with a primary caregiver early on or was neglected, abused, etc. they can have a tough time adjusting to new situations and making healthy relationships due to those early disruptions.

If you suspect you have a child with RAD or DSES, it’s best to go for a medical evaluation as soon as possible, get the help you need, and find support to get you and your child the best chance at forming a deeper connection.

N.D. “Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and Other Attachment Issues”. Help Guide. (website). 2018
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