Reactive Attachment Disorder is a disorder that develops in childhood as a result of being severely neglected by adult caregivers. Signs of this disorder can appear as early as infancy. It is a rare and serious disorder where a child has great difficulty forming an emotional bond with a caregiver. For example, a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder will not seek out their caregiver and will not feel comforted by their caregiver when they are distressed. This is accompanied by a lack of social responsiveness to others, a lack of display of positive emotions, and intense negative emotions such as sadness, irritability, or fear. The degree of neglect that is required for Reactive Attachment Disorder to develop sometimes occurs in children who have frequent changes in caregivers, such as when a child frequently transitions between foster homes.
The most important component of treating Reactive Attachment Disorder is ensuring that the child has access to reliable, supportive, and emotionally attuned caregiving. To meet this need, the child’s current caregiver may need parental education on how to raise their child in a more healthy fashion, or in extreme cases of neglect it may necessitate the transition of the child to another caregiver. Therapy can play a vital role in teaching caregivers how to be more attentive to the child’s needs. Additionally, children with RAD can benefit from therapy, especially in regard to learning skills to help regulate out-of-control emotions.