As a fairly new diagnosis to the DSM-IV manual, Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), sometimes known as Attachment Disorder (AD), is frequently misunderstood, and is misdiagnosed as Bipolar Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder as often as 70% of the time.
Today, perhaps more so than at any point in history, kids are apt to be separated, ignored, or neglected by their birth parents, shuttled between multiple foster parents and day care workers, or traumatized by physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. Even while physically present, some mothers are yet incapable of providing adequate care and attention for their children.
RAD kids have learned that the world is unsafe, and that the adults around them can’t be trusted to meet their needs. They have developed a protective shell around their emotions, isolating themselves from dependency on adult caregivers. Rather than depending on their parents or other adults to protect them, the protective shell becomes the child’s only means of coping with the world.
Dependent only upon themselves for protection, they come to see anyone who is trying to remove this protective barrier as a threat, not to their emotional well being, but to their very lives. They turn on those who seek to help them the most.
People require attachments with others in order to develop psychologically and emotionally. Attachment is the bond that normally develops between a mother and her child during the first few years of a child’s life. The quality of this bond affects the relationships that a person will have for the rest of his life.
Attachment develops in the early years of life when a mother responds to her baby’s cries by meeting its needs, appropriately feeding, consoling, soothing, and comforting, as well as keeping the infant safe from abuse and harm.
Fundamental to RAD kids is that they haven’t bonded and are unable to trust. They have learned that the adults in their lives are untrustworthy. Trust hasn’t worked for them. Without trust, there cannot be love, and without love they are emotionally underdeveloped. Instead of love, rage has developed within them.
In the first few years of life, at a time even before they have learned to speak, they have learned that the world is a scary place, and that they cannot rely on anyone else to get them through it.