Reactive attachment disorder in people of all ages

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by MidwestMom, Feb 18, 2009.

  1. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    What did you see that let you know your child or adult child just was/is not attached to you? I'm trying to look back at the signs for my son that has decided we are not a part of his life. He came at age six and spent his first six years in an orphanage and NEVER acted out AT ALL. In fact, he was ultra-good. But he also didn't want me to help him tie his shoes, wouldn't hug, and spent much of his teen years at other people's homes. My therapist believes he had Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) anyway. Just looking for your experiences about this sad disorder. If your child is an adult, do you see that child?
  2. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts


    I do know that there is inhibited Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) & disinhibited Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). As you can imagine the inhibited Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) are the kids that while not necessarily truly attached/bonded to a parent are so fearful of being moved once again or put back into a harsh living situation they will do anything to stay in their current family (placement).

    It sounds as though your son was very inhibited in his Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) tendencies; never truly came out to bond ~ could not find a reason to trust or distrust you & your husband as parents.

    Adults with attachment disorders tend to have trouble with their personal relationships, many times are diagnosis'd with borderline personality disorder & struggle throughout their lifetime with personal responsibility.

    As there are very few long term studies on attachment disorder, this information I've gleaned from our attachment/adoption specialists over the years when I've pushed for a prognosis for kt & wm.
  3. Lothlorien

    Lothlorien Active Member Staff Member

    I'm going to move this over to General
  4. Stella

    Stella New Member

    whilst trying to come up with a diagnosis for my difficult child, "attachment disorder" has been thrown into the mix by one of the SW's. I have read up quite a bit on it and I do realise that Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is more often found in adoptive kids, but it is not always the case. I am my difficult child's biological mom but she does seem to have attachement issues that are congruent to Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). She was never very affectionate or 'cuddley" and never really wanted me to help her with anything. From helping her put on her clothes to feeding her etc. She wanted to do everything herself. Now at the age of 10 this has progressed to her not allowing me to show her or teach her anything. She does not allow me to help her wiht her homework even if she is stuck on a question, she doens't allow me to hug her etc etc. Also when I go away (which is very rarely) she suffers from seperation anxiety which is apparently due to her "insecure attachement" to me. I've been told if her attachement to me was secure that she would not be so fretful when I leave. in my opinion TRUST plays a huge part in Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). I am trying hard to build up the trust in our relationship. It's like she purposelfy keeps me at arms lenght and doesn't want to get too close to me in case I hurt her or reject her. Maybe she has issues of being rejected when her father and me seperated when she was 3. It's almost like I am the one being punished for it. Anyway, this is all specualation on my part and just trying to understand WHY she does not have a secure attachment to me. Maybe we need to accept that we will never know WHY. I don't know. I think all we can do is keep reassuring them that we love them even if we are not getting any love back in return!!

  5. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Thanks. This is really interesting to me. My son never seemed to worry about us "going away." He had no seperation anxiety. And I truly believe he made an honest attempt to attach as a young adult, but as soon as there was a mild conflict he fled and refuses to come back. This conflict was the type of normal family conflict that you can't avoid, but he decided to shun us forever. He has sort of unusual attachments. He either gets attached/obsessed (his wife and his church) or he doesn't attach. There doesn't seem to be a happy medium with him. He is a brilliant young man, a computer prodigy, already a millionaire, and puts a lot of stock in his material items and success as if to say, "See, I'm just as good as everyone else. Better!" He can attach to peers, having lived with them his early years, but not adult figures who want to love and get close to him. Like I said, he tried. At the first sign of conflict, he took off. He does not have any idea how to express emotions. He is extremely appropriate and engaging and charming, but, deep inside, he has always been conflicted and empty and he had expressesd that to me. When I told him about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), he took it seriously and I think he went for counseling, but I don't know for sure since he never really talked about it much. He sort of hinted at it--and it was Christian counseling, I believe. Everything is black and white with him. There is no middle ground. I have never heard of a child who had attachment disorder and didn't act out at home, but he never did. I can only remember three times he got angry and all three times was at his brother. Then he got so angry he kicked the door in once. But usually his demeaner was passive, good-natured, and compliant. I was trying to see if anyone else had an attachment disordered child like this. He would constantly tell me, as he got older, "You didn't have anything to do with my development. I was already who I am by the time you got me." And he's right, of course.
  6. Janna

    Janna New Member


    Remember, couple of years ago, B was given an Attachment Disorder diagnosis, and we were like WTH?


    And, remember you and I were talking about SO's boy last week, and how we really thought he had alot of Spectrum criteria? Talking to in home therapist last weekend, she said he really fit Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) much more so than Autism.

    I'm doing a little research, just out of curiousity (I really have no energy to help SO with his son, it is what it is, and I can't help). I can tell you though - B, as well as SO's boy, share common factors. They can be left alone for hours at a time with no worry about involvement. Neither care to be held, touched, rubbed, hugged. Neither want kisses or displays of affection. And both have serious issues with things like materialistic goods (i.e. hoarding and overstocking on things like video games - buying, buying, buying with no purpose to the purchase - just to blow money).

    These are just a couple of things off the top of my head. It's just so interesting how when in home therapist was seeing SO's kid and we were talking about Spectrum stuff, she went straight to Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) (alot has to do with bio mom, who he lives with too). Made me wonder how many similarities Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) has to Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified.
  7. Stella

    Stella New Member

    He can attach to peers, having lived with them his early years, but not adult figures who want to love and get close to him. Like I said, he tried. At the first sign of conflict, he took off. He does not have any idea how to express emotions. He is extremely appropriate and engaging and charming, but, deep inside, he has always been conflicted and empty and he had expressesd that to me.

    Wow! you may as well have been describing my difficult child there MDW. This is exactly how she is. She attaches very well with her friends but actually is maybe even slightly obsessed with her friends and the only time she really seems to be happy is when she's around then. She cannot attach to any adult figures at all who want to get close to her. Its like she only trusts other children.

    Neither want kisses or displays of affection. And both have serious issues with things like materialistic goods (i.e. hoarding and overstocking on things like video games - buying, buying, buying with no purpose to the purchase - just to blow mone

    This also describes my difficult child down to a 't'. She wants, wants, want all the time. It's like she is trying to fill her empty void inside her with material things.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Janna, be verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry careful. Kids on the autism spectrum look A LOT like kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). They don't like to be touched for sensory reasons though. They are not rejecting you--they are simply not liking the way it feels to cuddle. My son adopted from Hong Kong had NO delays of any kind. He was brilliant. In two months he was speaking mostly English and now he has taught himself Mandarin (fluent). He is not autistic. My son was neglected in his orphanage. I still would question either SO's son or yours as having Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). I read a very interesting article on how Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) is often mistaken for Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and about how dangerous that is because Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) therapy would traumatize an Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kid. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) kids often like to be alone as well--L. can be up in his room for hours, but I know he loves us and just how much he loves us. It is NOT the same thing! Last weekend I went to Illinois without the kids to visit my sister and L. called me all the time to tell me everything he did and to ask when I was coming home. He says he loves us. My son from Hong Kong would have NEVER called me because I wasn't home or even cared that I was gone (even if I'd been gone a month)--he has walked away from ALL of us without a glance backward. So be careful about a Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) diagnosis for a kid you raised and loved. Stella, your kid may also be on the spectrum. Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is usually when kids were neglected or abused in their early years. Orphanage kids almost all have attachment issues. Same with those kids in foster care.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2009
  9. C.J.

    C.J. New Member

    While N* was in Residential Treatment Center (RTC), her counselor there added Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) to the mix of ADHD (non hyper) and ODD.

    N* was an affectionate baby and toddler, but when her mother left her and her older brother for days and weeks with other family members, or in the house alone, N* became fearful of people leaving her and not coming back. Trust issues are huge for her. Even now, when I walk toward the door to the basement with a laundry basket full of clothes on my hip, she'll ask me where I am going. As a joke, I started to say, China. Lately, as we watch tv together in the livingroom, if I get up to get something to drink, or visit the bathroom, or even stretch and sit back down, she will ask me where I am going. Huh?!?!

    Her counselor at Residential Treatment Center (RTC) told me N* has replaced me as her mom in her heart and head - good attachment, but has also not forgotten what it was like to be left behind, feeling unloved and unwanted - reactive attachment disorder.
  10. ThreeShadows

    ThreeShadows Quid me anxia?

    difficult child 2 never wanted to cuddle, I thought it was because of his overstimulation during his 6 week stay in the NICU, he would scoot right off my lap.

    I wonder if adopted twins bond more with each other than the adults in their lives.

    I think that difficult child 2 has undiagnosed Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) because it is so easy for him to find other families who will take him in. He calls them "mom", "sister", "cousin", sure is painful to hear him talk that way. Of course, none of these people have boundaries.
  11. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    From the research I have done on Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), it seems the damage to the child is usually done before age 3. After age 3 the child is developed to the point that they can process things differently, somehow. I am not sure why 3 is the magical age, but it is what I was told.

    They thought Wiz might be Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) because he had so many severe ear infections and then he had a urinary surgery at age 2 that he WOKE UP DURING! The anesthesiologist botched the job, gave him a short acting anesthesia that didn't last long enough for both of the procedures he needed and they couldn't give him any other anesthesia because the risk of killing him. About 2 months after the surgery he saw a commercial about surgery and he curled up clutching his privates crying "Surgy hurt! Surgy hurt!"

    That is how I started exploring to see what had happened (because of course they didn't tell me - just said they couldn't finish because complications). They also gave me a lot of BS about how he would never remember anything other than having surgery. He described EXACTLY what had happened to us. The OR, the "masked people", how they had him "tied down", seeing the knife, it was hideous to hear my 2 year old tell me all of this.

    This is why they thought Wiz might have Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), but he doesn't. He was extremely attached to us, especially me. Luckily, we are quite close once again.

    Don't let them put a Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) diagnosis on until you are SURE that EVERYTHING else has been ruled out. Often you cannot be sure everything has been ruled out until a child is MUCH older. So if you don't know of abuse or neglect, fight the Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) diagnosis.

    MWM, it may be that he just could never risk opening up to attach to any adult because he was so neglected/abused in the orphanage during his baby years. You probably will never know. It sounds like you did your very best but he just was not able to let you into his heart. I am so sorry.
  12. timer lady

    timer lady Queen of Hearts


    Attachment disorder is a difficult diagnosis; one that isn't given until/unless all else is evaluated. Additionally, it rarely happens when a child is raised in the bio home in a good environment. It's generally diagnosis'd in children that are in an ophanage setting or have hopped about from home to home in foster care, rarely in children in a loving bio home with parents who care & advocate for their children.

    As one who is raising 2 children with severe attachment disorder, I'd be careful before accepting this as a diagnosis, Susie, Stella & Janna. It's highly unlikely in your situations. I'll have to find the diagnosis criteria on attachment disorder & post it for you.

    The treatment is highly specialized ~ the prognosis is iffy. Holding therapies have been outlawed in most states. Saying that, there are few clinically accepted therapies for this disorder though some have more acceptance than others. Our treatment has been slow; reparenting to teach the tweedles many of the developmental steps they missed in bio home.

    Just wanted to offer this for those of you with concerns for their difficult children. I have more knowledge than I care to on this devastating disorder.
  13. Janna

    Janna New Member

    No, Linda, I don't suspect that in my situation, but I appreciate the concern. I think the topic is interesting, nonetheless.

    I think in the case of SO's son, it could be a huge possibility, because the boy has been severely neglected life long. He has not suffered the same types of abuses your tweedles have, but, was never held and loved. More like, dumped wherever. And, even now, at 12 years old, he has no desire for affection. No desire for parental guidance, or discipline, or anything.

    Unfortunately for him, he will never be diagnosis'ed, because bio mom doesn't care enough to see an issue. I just thought it interesting because I really thought the kid fit alot of Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) criteria. For the in home therapist to come off with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) kind of shocked me, but for him, it makes sense.

    My children are too suffocated to ever be Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). LOL!
  14. Stella

    Stella New Member

    Thanks for that Linda. I certainly won't be accepting an Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) diagnosis in a hurry, although I have to admit her behaviours do sound quite similar. GFH was defintely not neglected anyhow so don't see how she could have it! Just out of curiosity are potential adoptive mothers educated about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) before they actually adopt? Are they told that Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) may be a possiblity or are they left to find out for themselves!!!
  15. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    We were told about it when we adopted our foster child, but in general they don't tell us a whole lot (unless it has changed). And then there are some who adopt older kids (most NOT on this board) who want to pretend that love will cure all, even if the child lived two to eight years in an orphanage or in foster care with no adult they could ever trust--there is, like everything else, denial. The fact is, some adopted kids, mostly older adopted, will never really attach to their new parents. I know our son from Hong Kong never really thought of us as his parents, although he was well-mannered and compliant. I think he desperately wanted to attach, but he couldn't. And all attachment therapy is kind of theory--back then it wasn't talked about much anyway. Plus we never could have afforded to travel and have the sort of treatment that is recommended today. I would not adopt an older child again unless I know straight up that this is a child that may only think of us as a temporary caregiver because this boy broke our hearts.
  16. susiestar

    susiestar Roll With It

    I am not worried that Wiz has Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). It came up with one psychiatrist/therapist who worked together strongly pushing it. After a lot of research done in about 2 weeks (I think it was almost all I did!), I fired them. No way was Wiz EVER not loved and cuddled and held. He and I actually may have been TOO attached sometimes, but never was he truly diagnosis'd with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).

    I hate that there are so few ways to help kids iwth Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) like kt and wm. But I think the parents who adopt kids with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and use whatever treatments there are give the kids an amazing gift. These parents truly are in a thankless position, but they keep on trying and working anyway.
  17. BethM71

    BethM71 New Member

    I just joined the site, and just read about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) on WebMD. difficult child seems to have traits for both inhibited & disinhibited. I'm going to ask her pediatrician (specializes in children with emotional disorders, etc) about it. Maybe that's part of where her attachment/hyper-sexuality toward adult men stems from?
  18. Sagegrad

    Sagegrad New Member

    Speaking from experience, we were educated about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) while taking our classes to become adoptive parents. Our first adoptive placement (13yo girl) had a current Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) diagnosis. We began Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) therapy immediately. Unfortunately, she had the disassociative type of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and didnt want to participate in any therapy. When she turned 14 (the age of consent in the state she was from) she chose to go back into foster care when she realized we wouldn't allow her to just be a "boarder" in our home.

    Our former Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) therapists are actually the ones who suggested we would be a good match for our difficult child. They were working with her thru her foster home and knew we were familiar with parenting a Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) child.

    If we choose to adopt another child I certainly wouldn't discount one with the Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) label. But is certainly isnt without its challenges.
  19. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    Wee difficult child is diagnosis'ed with disorderd attachment. While I'm not sure I agree 100%, his attachment to me isn't normal by any means, and didn't come at all until he was 3 years old. So something's up. Looking back, he didn't want to be held much when he was tiny, he actually cried to be put down. He wanted to be put in his bed to go to sleep at night, no rocking. When he did attach to me, it was immediately after I started implementing TEC with him, and honestly, I think I became the one thing in this world he could comprehend. He will still say he wants his mom in situations because "she understands me". When asked why he loves me, he will answer that its because of my physical appearance, etc.
    I don't know what any of it means, other than its not "normal". But what is anymore...
  20. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    I suspect my father could be diagnosis'd with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) as well as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). He came from a very broken and dysfunctional childhood -- dumped in a variety of foster settings (some of whom were extended family) from the age of two on. I think, though, that in addition to not getting the kind of nurturing he needed early on, he had a genetic predisposition for the problems he has today. There are too many messed up people on his side of my family tree for me to believe otherwise. At his age, nothing will ever change, though.