What are Attachment Issues?
Bonding with caregivers during early childhood is vital to healthy emotional expression and relationship development later in life. Attachment issues, like reactive attachment disorder, can make it difficult for children and teens to form meaningful friendships, control their emotions, and show care and compassion toward others.
Types of Attachment Issues
Less serious attachment issues can be quite common, but disordered attachment issues are not. These are a couple of the most well known attachment disorders:
- Reactive Attachment Disorder: Although attachment issues exist on a spectrum of intensity, the most severe manifestation is RAD. Children and teens with this attachment disorder are often unable to connect with others or feel confident in their own worth and abilities. It’s common among children who have been abused, neglected, or removed from their primary caregiver at an early age.
- Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder: This rarer attachment disorder prompts children and teens to feel more comfortable and engaged with strangers than with close friends or immediate family members. It is easier for people with DSED to build quick, temporary relationships than meaningful long-term ones.
Symptoms of Serious Attachment Issues
Common symptoms of serious attachment issues:
- Emotional detachment
- Difficulty making friends
- Unwillingness to show affection
- Avoidance of social situations
- Inappropriate intimacy with strangers
- Attribution of mistakes to others
- Difficulty concentrating or learning new concepts
- Lack of remorse for words or actions
- Negative self-image
- Extreme attention-seeking
- Abnormally frequent violation of social norms
- Anger management issues
- Eating disorders
- Substance abuse or addiction
- Inappropriate sexual behavior
- Verbal or physical aggression
- Shunning close friendships or relationships
- Manipulative and controlling behavior
- Cruelty to animals
Risk Factors for Attachment Issues
Common risk factors related to attachment issues include:
- Abuse or Neglect: Although young children are remarkably resilient, those whose physical needs are ignored or rejected often develop severe attachment issues later in life. Sexual abuse and verbal harassment, especially from caregivers, can have a permanent impact on mental function.
- Living in Poverty: People who come from a low-income background are statistically more likely to lack the early childhood engagement that prevents attachment disorders.
- Unstable Living Situation: Teens who have spent time in an orphanage, lived in multiple foster homes, received frequent institutional care, or been hospitalized for extended periods of time are more likely to develop an attachment disorder.
- Co-Occurring Disorders: Many children and teens with attachment issues also suffer from other emotional and mental delays, such as ADD and ADHD, cognitive impairment, language delays, depression, or anxiety.
Typical Attachment Issue Treatments
Environment Stabilization: The first step toward genuine progress is ensuring that a person with an attachment disorder is provided with a secure, stable living situation with plenty of interpersonal support.
Group and Family Counseling: Since teens with attachment disorders generally find it challenging to build strong, positive relationships, many can benefit from therapeutic sessions where they learn and grow alongside others.
Residential Treatment: In some cases, especially when aggressive or antisocial behavior is involved, teens with attachment disorders benefit from long-term residential therapy. It gives them a stable, safe environment with specialized care. Click HERE to learn more.
Medical Attention: Many attachment disorders are intensified by co-occurring mental and physical issues. Seeking help for these issues can
Caregiver Support: It’s important for family members of teens with attachment disorders to understand how to best interact with their loved one.
Although there is no validated tool to test for attachment disorders, use the symptom list to evaluate behaviors. If you believe your child may be struggling with an attachment disorder or issues, the next step is seeking out a professional.
Find a medical or psychiatric provider who can provide a professional evaluation of the situation. They can help guide you towards treatment options that fit your family.
Approach your treatment options with a realistic, yet positive attitude. A diagnosis may seem dooming, but healing is possible.
Of children have been found to lack strong emotional bonds with their parents.
Are at a risk as high as 80% of developing Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).
Were found to have below average social skills than those without an attachment disorder.
Of children with RAD had another co-occurring diagnosis.