Reactive Attachment Disorder
Reactive attachment disorder or RAD is associated with adopted children. It can sometimes develop even when an adoption occurs in the first few days after birth if there was a disruption in the baby’s support by a caregiver for more than a few days. Life situations other than adoption can also create disruptions in early childhood that can cause RAD.
RAD is often misdiagnosed by health care professionals, including physicians and therapists, who may not have the experience or training to recognize early attachment issues.
RAD causes disorders of mood, behavior, and social relationships. It arises from a failure to form normal attachments to primary care figures (often the mother) in early childhood. It typically occurs during early development between ages 0 and 2 years old. As the child matures, it can show up increasingly as problems with social expectations, interactions and/or behaviors.
RAD can be difficult to diagnose
It may take years before certain problems caused by RAD show up, which makes the diagnosis much harder. As social engagement and school demands increase, the problems often start to grow, but because it wasn’t identified earlier, the correct diagnosis may continue to be unrecognized.
Mild cases may be missed all the way through high school and college, but a child’s increasing struggles aren’t hard to recognize.
The role of neurofeedback in RAD
A growing number of attachment therapists have been trained in neurofeedback and find it extremely helpful in the treatment process. In fact, it’s now a core tool for many of these therapists.
[Note: Michael Cohen, Director and Chief of Neurotechnology for the Center for Brain Training, has helped train numerous RAD therapists.]
RAD is a brain issue, and neurofeedback is one of the most powerful tools for the brain. It helps the person learn to regulate their brain and manage emotions, and it improves the parts of the brain that create calm.
At their root, many attachment problems, per Dr. Daniel Schore of UCLA, are in fact problems of self-regulation. The person simply can’t calm down and can’t manage emotion.
As an alternative to medications, neurofeedback can often help reduce or eliminate drugs prescribed for RAD as the brain becomes more stable.Articles
Here are some articles about RAD and neurofeedback by Sebern Fisher, M.A. LMH. Sebern is a brilliant psychotherapist who played a critical role in bringing neurofeedback to the field of attachment therapy. Her articles are insightful and very educational.
Neurofeedback: A Treatment for Reactive Attachment Disorder
> Case Studies from the Field
> When Love Is Not Enough
Common symptoms of RAD: (courtesy of Sebern Fisher, LMH)
(RAD is often misdiagnosed as the more common ADD/ADHD or oppositional defiant disorder).
- Lack of cause-and-effect thinking
- Lack of empathy
- Poor social cueing
- Lack of remorse
- Preoccupation with blood and gore
- Fascination with knives
- “Primary process lying” (lying about something that the other person can easily recognize as a lie such as: I didn’t drop the bread – when the other person was standing right there and saw the person drop the bread)
- Gaze aversion
- Tactile defensiveness
- Controlling behaviors
- Explosive rages
- Insensitivity to pain
- Co-morbidity with speech pathology
- Learning disability