Attachment Disorder or RAD

Attachment Disorders or RAD

Attachment disorder or RAD is associated with adopted children. It can occur at times even when an adoption occurs in the first few days. Life situations other than adoption can create disruptions in early childhood that are often missed. Certainly not all adopted children have RAD, but it’s important to be aware of the symptoms.

There are many misconceptions about Attachment Disorder. It’s often misdiagnosed by health professionals, including MD’s and therapists. Many don’t have the experience or training to recognize the problems that can occur because of early attachment issues.

Attachment disorder describes 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.

Why Is It So Hard to Diagnose?

It may take years before some of the problems really show up – which makes the diagnosis much harder. As social engagement and school demands increase, the problems often start to increase. But because it wasn’t identified earlier, the diagnosis may be completely ignored.

We list some of the common symptoms below. Mild cases may be missed all the way through high school and college. But their increasing struggles aren’t hard to recognize.

The Role of Neurofeedback in Attachment Problems

A growing number of attachment therapists have been trained in the use of neurofeedback and find it extremely helpful in the treatment process. RAD is a brain issue, and neurofeedback is one of the most powerful tools for the brain.

Neurofeedback for many RAD therapists is now a core tool. There have been presentations for over 8 years at the ATTACH national conferences. The results – helping kids with severe problems to gain control – have been seen in hundreds of cases.

Neurofeedback fundamentally helps someone learn to regulate their brain. It helps the parts of the brain that help us learn to be calm. It helps the brain learn how to manage emotions. At their root, many attachment problems – per Dr. Daniel Schore, of UCLA — are in fact problems of self-regulation. They can’t calm down. They can’t manage emotion. And there are other significant developmental issues that can occur as a result of attachment problems.

As an alternative to medications, neurofeedback can often help people reduce or eliminate drugs given to kids experiencing RAD as their brains become more stable.

CASE Examples

Below are two case examples from the EEG Spectrum website. EEG Spectrum is one of the leading companies in the field for training health professionals in neurofeedback. [Note that Michael Cohen, Director of the Center for Brain Training taught the main course for EEG Spectrum for many years and has helped trained many RAD therapists.]

Case example: Kyle Age 4
View case

Case example: E – 25-year-old female, Reactive Attachment Disorder in Adulthood
View case

ARTICLES, More Information.

You may want to read the 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 ADD/ADHD or Oppositional Defiant. It’s far more pervasive.
  • Lack of cause-and-effect thinking
  • Lack of empathy
  • Poor social cueing
  • Lack of remorse
  • Pre-occupation with blood and gore
  • Fascination with knives
  • ‘Primary process lying’ (lying about something that the other has witnessed)
  • Gaze aversion
  • Tactile defensiveness
  • Controlling behaviors
  • Cruelty
  • Explosive rages
  • Impulsivity
  • Insensitivity to pain
  • Co-morbidity with speech pathology
  • Learning disability
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (ADHD)