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Reactive Attachment Disorder

An extremely rare but equally serious disease that affects infants who have not developed healthy attachments with their parents is known as Reactive Attachment Disorder. This disorder is often brought about when an infant’s caregivers or parents fail to give him or her the loving attention and care that they need.

While Reactive Attachment Disorder is known to develop in infancy, it is currently unknown if the disorder continues to affect the child past the age of five. Common symptoms are explainable irritability, fear, sadness, and withdrawal from those around them. Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder are also known to keep to themselves, not seeking comfort, or being indifferent or showing no emotions when trying to be comforted. It is common for them to closely watch interactions surrounding them without ever actually getting involved in the interactions themselves.

While the disorder is very rare, the primary causes of the cases that have been identified are all identical or otherwise very closely related. Infants require constant attention and loving care from their caregivers. They also require a very stable environment in which to grow and learn. The importance of a smile or coo when being given a bath or receiving a diaper change can be easily overlooked. There is a strong emotional aspect that infants require, and when it is not met, Reactive Attachment Disorder may occur. In not receiving care or attention, a child may come to be very isolated, not expecting care or attention from anyone for any reason.

Children at risk for Reactive Attachment Disorder are those who live in a children’s orphanage/home or other similar institution, have inexperienced or irresponsible parents, or those who have been separated from their parents or caregivers due to hospitalization. However, most children are able to easily recover from these situations, and this is why Reactive Attachment Disorder is so rare and hard to diagnose. These types of negative situations are not always a direct trigger for the disorder. As it is a relatively newly discovered disorder, the long term effects of Reactive Attachment Disorder are very hard to predict and require further research.

Because these symptoms are generally very vague, the diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder is very rare. The only true way to analyze a child’s behavior correctly is to visit a psychiatrist or psychologist. However, if you feel that your child is showing signs of the disorder, a visit to your family pediatric doctor may help with beginning to identify the problem.