Can Adults Suffer From Reactive Attachment Disorder?

RAD is a condition diagnosed in children who do not receive enough nurturing from parents or caregivers and thus do not establish bonds with them. The condition affects the child’s relationships with other people significantly, and the effects are long-lasting, so adults can suffer the consequences of their parents’ failure to provide them with an appropriate environment and care in childhood.

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Reactive attachment disorder is a condition that develops in infants, toddlers and children. The age at which it develops can vary, but it is usually before the age of 5. If the child’s need for comfort, love and care, including shelter, food and nurturing, is not met, such a child may fail to learn to trust people and become withdrawn, as connections with adults are not established, and the ability to form caring relationships with other people is impaired.

What symptoms of RAD can adults have?

If RAD is left untreated, it can extend into adulthood, bringing all its symptoms to another level: an adult who had RAD in childhood can have difficulty trusting others, including even their spouse, and showing sympathy, empathy and compassion. Remorse is another feeling that becomes alien.

The manipulating behaviors adopted when they were children persist. People with RAD find it hard to be genuine when communicating with friends or even the people belonging to their family. Failure to form relationships leads to more problems, such as lying to protect themselves against the criticism they believe they face when talking to others. They are often stressed, withdrawn and suffer from depression. The condition can manifest itself in bursts of anger or hostility to others.

Such a state of mind can lead to addictive behaviors, which means a person with RAD can start abusing drugs, or develop substance, alcohol or sex addiction. Lack of loved ones to support them forces those with the disorder to do things that can result in crime records. It takes great efforts to break the cycle and agree to receive treatment.

Is there a way to treat RAD?

The therapies used to treat RAD in adults are aimed at helping patients regain the ability to form attachments. Of course, early intervention could improve the outcome, but the problem can still be tackled even if it is an adult who has been suffering from the disorder for a long time.

It is especially important for relatives to take part in the process of rehabilitation: it takes two to establish a relationship, and the bond forged with someone you live with or see on a regular basis is a better basis for further recovery than talking to a psychotherapist. Still, medical assistance is often needed, as special therapies are used to reveal the problem and help the patient eliminate something that hinders their capacity for forming relationships.

Counseling is one way to treat RAD, and some doctors advocate using role-playing as a means of treatment. It may take a lot of time to reveal trapped emotions, as such patients actually crave care and love, but cannot receive it. The friend, spouse or relative of the patient should attend at least some sessions to learn how to help and what to do to support the one undergoing therapy.

Another challenge that a patient has to face is to realize there is such a health problem. However, there is no room for despair, as the disorder can be treated regardless of age, and every person can regain the ability to love, to trust and to share this love.

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