Parenting A Teenager With Reactive Attachment Disorder

It isn’t uncommon to have a teen who likes to push boundaries when it comes to the relationship with their parents.

However, whilst it is only natural for a teenager to show signs of wanting to be independent, it is a whole other story when it comes to suffering from reactive attachment disorder.

Parenting A Teenager With Reactive Attachment Disorder

This is because it is fairly rare, with only 1% of all teenagers suffering with the condition.

It can cause your teenage son or daughter to struggle building any form of bonds with people.

If your teenager has recently been diagnosed, or you suspect something isn’t right, read on to find out what it actually is, and what you can do to help.

What Actually Is Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)?

Parenting A Teenager With Reactive Attachment Disorder

Reactive attachment disorder is a complex condition that affects the mental health of a person. It is seen as rare, and can cause a parent to feel stressed and worried.

It is usually something that begins during a child’s development years due to a number of things, such as being permanently separated from their parents or sole caregiver, or being affected by any treatment of neglect and abuse.

The condition itself can cause a teenager to not be able to form any attachments to a person, whether that is a relationship or emotionally.

Not only that, they often lack any form of shame or guilt, and can have antisocial behavior and be violent.

There is no cure to deal with RAD, however professional support is needed due to those who suffer with the condition having a higher chance of behavioral and family problems, along with a potential to suffer with substance abuse and academic issues.

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Whilst the condition may be undetected when they are a child, as they grow up it becomes more severe.

What Are The Symptoms Of Reactive Attachment Disorder?

Parenting A Teenager With Reactive Attachment Disorder

RAD can sometimes be mistaken for autism, so when diagnosing a teenager or child, details need to be carefully considered.

However, it isn’t uncommon to have some symptoms already present by the time they are 5 years old.

If you suspect your child has RAD, then take a look at this diverse symptoms list:

Their Personality

  • Cries a lot
  • Avoids any eye contact
  • Never smiles – maybe the odd time
  • Doesn’t seem to notice if a person is there or leaves
  • Never reaches up to have themselves picked up
  • Self-comforts by rocking themselves back and forth
  • Doesn’t seem interested in playing with their toys or games

When With Other People

  • Shows signs of being either disobedient or argumentative
  • Has angry tantrums and sometimes outbursts for no reason at all
  • Doesn’t like being touched
  • Has no affection towards loved ones
  • Shows behaviors of passive-aggressiveness

Symptoms Of A Teenager And Young Adult With Reactive Attachment Disorder

Parenting A Teenager With Reactive Attachment Disorder

Once they are a teenager (and beyond), you may notice these behaviors which are put into two different groups:

Disinhibited RAD

  • Have become very dependent
  • Doesn’t act their age and are seen an immature
  • Wants to have all the attention
  • Doesn’t understand social boundaries
  • Tends to treat strangers the same way as they treat their own parents
  • Sometimes may form an inappropriate attachment with somebody because they will seek comfort from pretty much anyone

Inhibited RAD

  • Avoids pretty much everything
  • Has a tendency to be very withdrawn
  • Also avoids all relationships
  • Can seem to be either unresponsive or uncomfortable to any signs of being comforted
  • Seems attached emotionally, and can struggle to provide an emotional response or expressions

Is There A Cause To A Teenager Having Reactive Attachment Disorder?

Parenting A Teenager With Reactive Attachment Disorder

It is really important to understand that what a young child experiences can give them a foundation which sets them up for the rest of their life.

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If the child suffers from some form of abandonment or serious neglect, then this can have a severe impact on the rest of their life.

There are a few situations which may have caused your teenager to have Reactive Attachment Disorder. Here are some of them:

  • If a parent died, then the child may have been left without the normal baby to parent bonding.
  • A parent may have not been able to bond with their baby due to suffering with their own mental health or substance abuse. This means the parent has not been able to provide affection and interaction with their baby.
  • A child may have moved from several foster care homes unable to form a longer lasting bond with people.
  • A child may have experienced some form of abuse, whether physical, emotional or sexual, at the hands of a caregiver.
  • Lastly, if the child spent their early life in an institution, then they would not have experienced bonding the way a child should.

What Treatment Is Available To Teenagers Who Suffer With Reactive Attachment Disorder?

Parenting A Teenager With Reactive Attachment Disorder

It isn’t uncommon for those with RAD to manipulate and avoid help during a therapy session, so it isn’t always the best course of action when it comes to dealing with a teenager who suffers from the condition.

This is mainly because the therapist may not be able to deal with such an issue, as like we stated before, it is actually quite rare.

Due to it being an ongoing condition, some of the treatments and advice for dealing with RAD are:

  • Family Systems Therapy
  • Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy
  • Activities such as yoga or art

They can also use a residential setting where caregivers can help them to manage their symptoms which can help them as they progress into adulthood.

Final Thoughts On Reactive Attachment Disorder?

Parenting A Teenager With Reactive Attachment Disorder

If your child has reactive attachment disorder, you might feel alone.

Whilst only 1 percent of teens suffer with the condition, it can be lived with if you both take the right steps.

If you are unsure whether your child has RAD, then it will be worth them getting checked out by a professional.

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Whilst it might seem like the end of the world for you both, it doesn’t have to be.

Good luck with the next steps in your journey!

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Suzy Prichard