Teen Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

Teen Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) consists of a child’s emotional detachment from their parents or caretakers. Normally, this disorder begins in the early years of childhood. This disorder could be triggered because of ill-treatment or abuse by parents / caretakers towards their children when they are less than five years of age. This disorder is often associated with adopted children who could not build enough rapport with their foster parents.

Causes of Teen RAD

Adoption is ranked as the top cause for this disorder. Adopted children require special care in order to build new relationships, and grow accustomed to a new environment. Improper handling of this process may lead to hatred, difficult relationships, and ultimately reactive attachment disorder.

This disorder is also attributed to time spent in an orphanage and other foster homes before a child is moved to a new environment. The change of caretakers and nannies, especially if there is mishandling and/or abuse in this process is one of the major triggers for this disorder.

Mothers suffering from post-partum may also drift away emotionally from their children. Children who are neglected or experience emotional detachment in their early formative years may struggle with healthy bonding in later years and manifest this disorder. Alternatively, a child may experience long periods of time away from their parents/caretakers such as in the case of hospitalization, travel or being a member of a very large family and not managing to have deep connection, one-on-one time and personalized attention due to the time constraints as a result of the family dynamic.

Symptoms of Teen RAD

Some detachment and drifting is normal during the teenage years. However, there are more prominent specific symptoms that are exhibited in order to identify teen reactive attachment disorder.

Some of these symptoms include:

  • Separating from family and friends
  • Refusing to accept or ask for help
  • Developing suspicion and distrust of family members
  • None or limited compassion towards family
  • Manipulative actions
  • Violence towards siblings and animals
  • Tendency towards dishonesty and lying without remorse or regret
  • Sleeping disorder

Treatment of Teen RAD

Teens with reactive attachment disorder may attempt to mask their symptoms with false empathy and kindness. This is not recovery but rather a manipulative behavioral technique to enable them to remain in their own shell, wrapped up in self. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) are recommended treatment therapies to assist the teen to develop healthy interpersonal relationships, and balanced emotional responses, all the while addressing the underlying triggering trauma. Families are usually involved in these therapy sessions allowing the process is therefore engaging and interactive.

Additionally, meditation and relaxation, as well as a focus on the teen’s interests and hobbies, such as – drama, sport or dance are also explored as methods to aid the healing process. Occasionally, where there are co-occurring issues, medication will also be prescribed to manage the debilitating symptoms of this disorder so that the therapy can be the most effective and sustainable.

Treatment at Hillcrest

Hillcrest Adolescent Treatment Center (Hillcrest) is uniquely situated and designed to provide and nurture healing on all levels. As an elegant green rehabilitation oasis in the Agoura foothills, Hillcrest aims to cater to each client’s physical, emotional, mental, psychological and nutritional needs, specifically through individualized and diverse treatment plans. Hillcrest focuses on the key principles of mind-body health and provides wholesome healing in a mostly unplugged and small group environment.

Upon admission, each client is provided with the opportunity to undergo a series of professional evaluations in order to understand the root of the client’s struggle. Guided by dedicated doctoral-level practitioners, the best resources are then gathered to pave a clear treatment path for each client using bespoke, multi-disciplined therapeutic treatment plans. Hillcrest aims to provide the highest level of professional care and provide the client with an excellent, well-balanced and well-rounded experience while being treated at the facility, as well as the adequate tools to function independently and responsibly post treatment. At Hillcrest, you are your loved one are supported every step of the way on this journey to long-lasting and sustained healing.

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