Reactive attachment disorder is a disorder associated with a child’s social interaction.
Reactive attachment disorder rarely occurs, but is considered a serious condition. Young children and infants with this condition experience difficulty bonding with caregivers or parents. It is usually a result of neglect of the child’s basic needs such as: nurturing, affection, and comfort. Care and love are not established. These needs of a child aren’t necessarily met. It interferes with the child’s development and may cause problems establishing future relationships.
This disorder is a lifelong condition. However, treating the child may help with future relationships with caregivers and other people. It can help them develop a healthy and stable relationship. These treatments are proven and safe. These include: education of caregiver or parent and psychological counseling.
Reactive Attachment Disorder Symptoms
The disorder often begins on or before the age of five, while signs and symptoms may appear as early as infancy. Infants may exhibit different signs and symptoms from toddlers or older children. Common symptoms manifested by infants include a listless, sad, or withdrawn appearance. They may not smile frequently and eye contact may not be established. Unlike other infants, they may not reach out to the person picking them up. They don’t participate in interactive games such as peekaboo and even games that involve toys. Infants with this disorder engage themselves in self-soothing behaviors such as self-stroking or rocking. They are calm when left alone.
For adolescents, older children, or toddlers affected by the disorder, they tend to withdraw themselves from other people. They dismiss or avoid comforting gestures or comments. Relationship problems and peers may be a problem because of aggressiveness. They don’t usually get involve with social interaction. These individuals don’t usually ask for assistance or support. Discomfort or awkwardness is consistent and obvious. They tend to hide their distress or anger. Drug abuse or alcohol is often a problem.
As a child with this disorder grows old, they may develop behavioral patterns, either inhibited or disinhibited. In most cases, both types of behavior occur, while some may exhibit one type only. An inhibited behavior avoids attachments and relationships. This occurs when an infant has always failed developing a relationship to any caregiver.
On the other hand, a child with disinhibited behavior often seeks attention from everyone. This may include strangers. This type of behavior may occur if an infant has multiple caregivers that may be due to frequent changes in caregivers. A child with this behavior tends to be dependent to other people when doing task. Anxiety and childish behavior is common.
Reactive attachment disorder is a lifelong disorder and is permanent. However, treatment may help adults and even children cope with the disorder. It may help them control the symptoms.
Reactive Attachment Disorder Causes
Basic needs of infants and young children include a caring and stable environment. This helps them develop trust and feel safe. The physical and emotional needs of these children and infants must always be met consistently. This is essential especially for infants because they cannot speak out their needs. They only cry. Crying may signal that the baby needs a diaper change or meal. Caring for the child should also include caressing, smiling, and eye contact.
A child may expect hostility or rejection if their needs are not met or ignored, or when physical or emotional abuse accompanies their needs. This results to the child avoiding social contact and becomes distrustful. This affects the child’s development leading to relationship, personality, and attachment problems throughout life.
The cause of reactive attachment disorder is not really clear. In most cases, children who’ve experience neglect such as children in orphanages often develops strong bonds and healthy relationships with other people.
Reactive Attachment Disorder Treatment
Treatment of reactive attachment disorder has two phases. The first priority during treatment is to assure the child the he or she is in a safe environment and his or her needs are met, whether physical or emotional.
The next step is to confront the cause. If the cause of the problem lies within the caregiver, the caregiver should take steps to changing the relationship with the child. The caregiver may be required to attend classes with regards to parenting. Classes may help the caregiver understand the child better, promoting bonding as well as help meet the needs of the child.
The caregiver may also need to undergo counseling. This is to help identify current problems that interfere caring for the child. This may include problems such as family violence and drug abuse. Social services may also be needed to ensure the child’s safety.
Adopted children or babies from foreign orphanages may develop this disorder due to inconsistency with love and physical affection. Adopted children may first be frightened of the people adopting them; however, parents should not refer to this as rejection. This is a normal response. Hugging the child frequently may help, but should not be forced.
Individuals with reactive attachment disorder are recommended to undergo a mental health evaluation after treatment to evaluate the effectiveness of care rendered.
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