When your child is unable to form an attachment with you or with other people, do not just ignore it, for it might be a sign of reactive attachment disorder. This is a serious condition that should be resolved while a child is still young, for it can affect how he deals with other people when he is older.

Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a serious condition wherein a child is not able to establish an attachment or a bond with his parents or caregivers. When this is not managed properly, it can result to impairment in the child’s development, his ability to form relationships as well as expressing his emotions. There are two forms of RAD – inhibited and disinhibited. In inhibited RAD, the child is not able to initiate or respond to interactions with other people and this is usually because of losing a primary caregiver. On the other hand, disinhibited RAD is manifested by a child participating in diffuse attachments and improper sociability such as being excessively familiar with strangers. This is usually caused by the constant loss of attachment figures or having multiple caregivers but there is inability to develop and attachment to any of them.

The primary cause of reactive attachment disorder is the inability to consistently connect with a parent or a caregiver. There are certain risk factors that can lead to a child developing RAD. These risk factors include institutional care or when a child lives in an orphanage, having different caregivers, inexperienced parents, constant neglect of the child’s needs, being in the hospital for a prolonged period of time, poverty and abuse in any form such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse.

There are different manifestations of reactive attachment disorder for infants, older children and adolescents. For infants, you will notice that they avoid eye contact, fail to smile or reach out when picked up, reject your efforts to soothe them, do not care if they are left alone, do not coo or make any sounds, spend time comforting themselves such as rocking, are not interested in interactive games and often cry inconsolably. For older children and adolescents, the signs and symptoms of RAD include discomfort over display of physical affection, anger problems, prefer to be in control of situations and never asking for help.

When you are caring for the child, there are certain things that you have to remember to make the situation easier and for you to help the child. You have to set realistic expectations, be patient and you should promote sense of humor and joy for the child. You should also take care of yourself, even if this is very stressful. When things go out of hand and you feel like you can’t handle it anymore, find time to talk with your friends or to anyone who can help you. To further help your child, you need to find out the things that make him feel good and help him identify ways on how he can express his needs. Of course, you should talk and play with your child while responding appropriately to his emotional age.

It is indeed difficult if you are the parent or the caregiver of a child who has reactive attachment disorder but what you have to keep in mind that this condition is even harder for the child. Be aware of the different signs and symptoms of reactive attachment disorder so that you will be able to have treatment immediately.

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