Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) occurs when an infant or child is unable to form healthy attachments to caregivers. Many children can experience difficulty in forming relationships; however, a true diagnosis of RAD is rare. The attachment process can be impacted by many situations, including the loss of a caregiver, the caregiver’s substance abuse, neglect, physical abuse, or mental health issues within the home.

RAD is typically diagnosed in early childhood as it is specific to attachment issues and needs not being met during infancy and early toddler years.


Symptoms can include an extreme lack of engagement with caregivers, including not wanting to be held or receive affection or comfort. On the other extreme, symptoms can include an indiscriminate attachment to everyone, even strangers. Children with RAD can be withdrawn or irritable without explanation, will not ask for help, will closely observe people but be unwilling to engage.


Treatment must include the caregivers and often involves reestablishing some of the bonds formed during infancy. Caregivers must be consistent in their approach, have realistic expectations, and be open to psycho-education.

Please note that these symptoms can be present with other diagnoses such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), autism, and mood disorders. When identifying these symptoms in a child it is important to consult health professionals to ensure the child and family receive the appropriate treatment.

This information was gathered from MayoClinic.org.