Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a rare condition in which infants and children are unable to trust or develop a healthy bond with parents or caregivers. Children with this disorder may behave in frightening and sometimes violent ways.
RAD is the result of abuse, neglect, or other parenting problems early in a child's life. Any child who lives through the loss of their primary caretaker, abuse, neglect, or multiple caregivers in the first 2 years of their life can suffer from RAD. When a child’s basic needs for comfort, affection, and nurturing aren’t met, he learns that he cannot depend on adults.
Toddlers and older children with reactive attachment disorder may:
Your child's healthcare provider or a mental health therapist will ask about your child's symptoms, medical and family history, and any medicines your child is taking. He will make sure that your child does not have a medical illness or drug or alcohol problem that could cause the symptoms. Your child may have tests or scans to help make a diagnosis.
Children with RAD need to feel safe, be in a secure and stable home, and learn to trust a caregiver. They also need to learn to control their anger and accept rules. Treatments that may help include:
Medicines may be prescribed if your child is depressed, overactive, anxious, or violent. These medicines must be prescribed by a healthcare provider experienced with their use in children with this disorder.
Your child may need to spend some time in a hospital if he is thinking about hurting himself or someone else.
There is no evidence that “holding therapy” or “rebirthing” are safe or effective. Talk with your child’s mental health therapist before you try an unproven therapy for your child.
Get emergency care if your child has serious thoughts of suicide or self-harm, violence, or harming others.