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Attachment disorder

Most commonly known as Reactive Attachment Disorder or "RAD" attachment disorders are characterized by a pattern of developmentally inappropriate attachment behaviors. Attachment disorders occur from being unable to form a normal attachment to a caregiver in early childhood. Children with an attachment disorder rarely turn to a caregiver for nurturance, comfort, or support. Children with an attachment disorder typically have experienced a significant amount of abuse and/or neglect in infancy.

Symptoms of an attachment disorder:

  • Child rarely seeks comfort or rarely responds to comfort from the caregiver
  • Minimal social and emotional responsiveness to others
  • Unexplained irritability, sadness, or fearfulness even during nonthreatening interactions with a caregiver
  • Unable to relate to caregivers


If you are concerned that your child may have an attachment disorder, the first step is often to talk with your child's medical provider. Share your concerns about your child's mood or behavior with that provider. Your doctor may then refer you to a mental health provider for further evaluation and treatment.


Most of the treatment of an attachment disorder is provided by the primary caregivers with the advice of a mental health provider. A mental health provider will be able to support the caregivers by providing ways to meet the emotional needs of the child and ways to repair and recreate a sense of security in the child. Play therapy is often used with the child and caregiver to help the child express their emotional needs. a referral to a mental health professional is critical. Once your child is referred for therapy, the mental health provider will meet with you and your child for an initial assessment to gather information about the changes in mood and behavior and then they will work with you to set goal and develop a treatment plan. Depending on the severity of issues your child might be seen weekly, every other week or even monthly for therapy.

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