Reactive Attachment Disorder In Adults

by | Mar 3, 2021 | Health | 0 comments

reactive attachment disorder

Reactive Attachment Disorder

Reactive attachment disorder are a rare and unknown mental health condition that occurs in children and occurs when there are no strong, healthy bonds between the carer and the child.

There are many ways this can negatively affect young people. This article will look in more detail at how reactive attachment disorders manifest themselves, what their symptoms are, and what treatments are available.

What is Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and what causes it?

As mentioned above, we can summarize reactive attachment disorder in the absence of an emotional bond between the caregiver, such as the biological parent or adopter, and the child.

This situation can result from the absence, neglect, and abuse of a stable caregiver, whether physical or emotional. These factors we call pathogenic care.

Caring for children

Here are some different possible scenarios that can cause RAD:

  • Inability to feed a baby or infant even after starvation;
  • Neglected crying baby;
  • Failure to interact (such as talking and playing) with the baby results in loneliness.

We can see RAD more often in orphanages or foster families because their parents have left them or they do not have stable carers and homes.

RAD is less common, but up to the age of 5 it manifests itself with various symptoms. This feature means it is one of the few diseases of the DSM that can affect infants.

Symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder

We base RAD on disorders that worsen social functioning.

Compared to those without this condition, individuals with reactive attachment disorders will have more behavioral and psychosocial problems. Here are some of the symptoms:

  • impulsivity;
  • hypersexuality;
  • hyperactivity;
  • developmental delays;
  • language delay;
  • murder and suicide ideas;
  • accumulation;
  • to steal;
  • lying;
  • vandalism;
  • burning;
  • cruelty to animals.

Lonely child

Based on these symptoms, someone with this condition may have difficulty showing affection, may have anger problems, and may have signs of sociopathy because of upbringing.

Individuals may not like being touched and have no regrets about ill-treatment.

In addition, we can characterize reactive binding disorders in two different ways – delayed and uninhibited.

We can describe inhibited RAD as hyper-monitoring. Children may be more careful and attentive than usual.

Unlimited RAD is the exact opposite. Those with an uninhibited type are free to interact with strangers and ignore the need to be close to their caregivers. Such behavior can also be called non-discriminatory friendliness.

Some of these symptoms of reactive binding disorders may be more visible only after 5 years of age; however, there are warning signs we can observe in infants.

Even if they can’t speak clearly, babies usually show many pointers to express how they feel. An infant with RAD:

  • Don’t smile;
  • Avoid contact with eyes;
  • Reject being taken;
  • Cry often;
  • Don’t want to play with toys or games

If left untreated, RAD symptoms can pass into adulthood and can have serious consequences.

Reactive Attachment Disorder in Adults

Many of the symptoms listed above in the previous section may be in adults and may be associated with risk.

There is also some corroborating evidence to suggest that RAD in childhood is later associated with various personality conditions, such as borderline or antisocial personality disorders.


As it is difficult for people with RAD to adapt to the social situation and establish secure connections, this can lead to a struggle for relationship building.

This can include social relationships such as friends or colleagues, and intimate relationships.

As the initial relationship between the child and the carer had not been established, this type of relationship may prove challenging or even impossible.

Some behaviors that have emerged in the RAD at an early age can lead to crime. Vandalism, murder and cruelty to animals are serious crimes.

In the worst cases, there may be no empathy or regret for his / her criminal behavior and repetitive actions may occur.

Social isolation and feelings of hopelessness can also lead to drug problems and other addictions, including sex and gambling.

Treatment of Reactive Attachment Disorder

Although not currently standard, the most common course of treatment for someone with RAD is attachment-based therapy.

One of the most commonly used techniques is a type of psychological intervention called retention therapy. It helps the mother or foster parent reconnect.


Although popular, holding therapy is also somewhat controversial because it is coercive. The child is detained for a long time and exposed to unwanted stimuli. These incentives may include, but are not limited to:

  • Tickling
  • Poking
  • Tapping
  • Shouting

The goal is to subject children to stimuli until there is resistance or an attempt to avoid it. We then return the child to the caregiver, as the depressed rage against these activities is released, allowing a new healthy attachment to be formed.

Studies show that those who received treatment had a significant reduction in aggressive behavior compared with those who had never been treated.


Other treatments for reactive attachment disorders, such as play therapy and art therapy, have been effective in treating other attachment disorders; however, very many clinical studies have not been performed to evaluate its efficacy with RAD.

Spending time outside of therapy can be additional to transforming the attachment between the caregiver and the child. They earn activities such as those mentioned above outside the therapy session because they promote bonding.

Additional parenting strategies can include teaching them about emotions, consequences, and convincing the child that they are safe and loved.

The key adds that although the child is affected by the reactive attachment disorder, carers need to be prepared to take part in the therapy in order to be beneficial.

Another way to hold therapy is debatable is that we have subjected some patients to severe violence, and this type of treatment can perpetuate a previous injury.

Because they are legally independent and there is a possibility that a carer may not be available, the treatment of adult junctional disorders may differ from the treatment of children.

Not a parent but an adult with RAD can choose to lead a friend to therapy sessions to build trust. If no friends are available, it is also about developing social skills and connecting with the therapist.

Also, if you are an adult who finds it difficult to build meaningful relationships with others, treatment is available to you.

The Bottom Line

Reactive attachment disorders (RAD) are relatively rare conditions that can begin before the age of 5 years.

Even though it is quite rare among the population, the incidence of RAD is higher in foster homes and orphanages, where children are more likely to be neglected and abused.

These extremely negative experiences have the potential to affect young people forever, and we can see signs of the condition as early as infancy. For example, a child may refuse to smile, make eye contact or play.

Later in childhood, adolescence and adulthood, more serious risks may arise. Dysfunctional behaviors can range from lying to killing.

Not all people with RAD are at risk of homicide, but additional actions, such as failure to show regret and harm to animals, can be reliable indicators.

This type of behavior can last until adulthood and, if not addressed, can have serious consequences.

Maintenance therapy is the most studied method of treating reactive attachment disorders. Although controversial, it has shown effectiveness in many children because it changes his or her feelings about negative stimuli, such as touch.

However, this type of therapy may not be optimal for adults, and instead emphasizes a variety of methods related to trust and relationship building.

Ideally, RAD is best treated early, when families can be involved, and there is a greater chance of placing the child in a stable environment.

Family holding hands

Most times, because of an extremely abusive background, it is not possible to reconnect with families. In these situations, finding the child’s healthy living conditions should be a priority.

The earlier the intervention, the sooner we can change the trajectory for a person with reactive attachment disorders.

In fact, unlike many other mental health problems that can occur for no reason, RAD is completely preventable and parents and carers are always responsible for the child’s needs.

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