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What happens to kids with RAD when they grow up?

A healthy attachment with caregivers is an essential part of a child’s development. When this doesn’t happen, children experience serious emotional problems and may have difficulty forming future relationships.

Reactive attachment disorders are a group of conditions that affect how well an infant or young child forms secure bonds with caregivers. Typically, these children have experienced severe problems in their early relationships, like physical and emotional abuse and neglect. They often view the world as a frightening and dangerous place where they can’t trust others.

While a child might not develop RAD reactive attachment disorders as a result of abuse or neglect alone, there are many situations that can contribute to the disorder. Children who spend a large portion of their early years in an institution, such as an orphanage, tend to have a greater risk for developing RAD. A lack of consistent care and affection can also play a role, as can a history of frequent changes in caregivers.

Psychiatrists can diagnose a child with a reactive attachment disorder by taking a comprehensive history of the person’s life and looking for specific signs, such as a resistance to touch or affection. These symptoms can be a result of a variety of factors, including trauma, depression and anxiety.

If a child is diagnosed with a reactive attachment disorder, the psychiatrist will usually recommend treatment for the disorder. This may include parent training to help a child feel safe and loved. The psychiatrist might also encourage the child to engage in nontraditional therapy, such as holding therapy or rebirthing techniques. However, the American Psychiatric Association and The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry warn against these types of treatments because they have not been proven to reduce a child’s symptoms or lead to a cure for the condition.

A child with a reactive attachment disorder might also be prescribed medication to help regulate their moods. Some psychiatric medications, such as antidepressants and sedatives, have been shown to reduce the symptoms of RAD. In more serious cases, the psychiatrist might prescribe antipsychotics or other powerful drugs to treat the disorder.

The earlier a child with a reactive attachment disorder is treated, the better. Parents, teachers and daycare providers who notice these symptoms in a child should contact their health care provider for an evaluation. In addition to recommending treatment, a mental health professional might recommend that the child be enrolled in a supportive family program, such as adoptive families for foster or adopted children.

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