Reactive Attachment Disorder also known as RAD, affects many children in our society today. Unattached children are not able to trust anyone, not even the people they should trust. In fact, many unattached children actually seem to attach themselves to the very people they should avoid.
There are many theories on why children become unattached but you see it most often in children who have been horribly abused at a young age, and / or removed from their primary care givers repeatedly before the age of two or three due to death or abuse.
To further complicate matters, parents and caregivers of unattached children cannot trust the child. The unattached child is not able to develop normal relationships with anyone. The relationships they do have are often fraught with drama, painful interactions, and even violence. Since unattached children cannot feel normal emotions of anxiety or guilt when doing something wrong, or love and happiness when things are right, it is difficult for the parents and caregivers to form satisfactory relationships with the child. In fact, these children are often happier when there is pain and drama because it reinforces their self image of being bad, worthless, and useless.
The unattached child will show affection but it is only a means to an end and lacks any deepness or truth. The unattached child is a great observer of behavior and will mimic what they see in order to try to fake their way through life. But the unattached child will go through life without any real feelings about it, which makes it difficult to keep the act up. The unattached child will blame everyone around them for everything that happens, usually far into adulthood without proper therapy.
Unfortunately, it can be difficult to get the proper therapy for these children who eventually become unattached adults. Even with therapy there is no cure for attachment disorder. The most one can hope for is that the child learns to become self aware enough to control their actions well enough not to cause additional trauma on themselves and others throughout their lives.
For those involved with people who have been diagnosed with attachment disorder their job is to be forgiving, yet not allow the unattached child to make excuses for their behavior. At some point a child must become responsible for their actions without blaming everything bad that happens on others. Certainly trauma has happened, and that is sad, but continuing to excuse bad behavior on the grounds that mom or dad was abusive, or that the child was abandoned, serves no purpose other than to allow the abuse cycle to continue.
If you want to keep relating to the unattached child know the tactics they use most often such as:
Divide and Conquer — This is where the child will seek out sensitive people to take up their cause against the person they feel is the perpetuator, usually this person has done nothing but try to help the child. The unattached child rarely directs their anger at the right person. The child will go from person to person doing this often burning bridges along the way with the very people who could help them. Once one person has been defeated, they move on to defeating the person who helped them last with new sensitive people and protectors.
Button Pushing — Children with RAD often find ways to push buttons of friends, siblings and adults that get the most response. Usually the RAD child will respond by quietly watching the chaos claiming they have nothing to do with it when they did because they usually manipulated each party into the reaction they wanted them to have.
The Blame Game — This is where the RAD child will entrust someone to confess how “abused” they are by various people in their lives and tell them “secrets” they have told no one else. This is especially done by teenagers who are unattached. They will get this person on their side to a point where that person will blindly defend them against the enemy — usually the parent or caregiver who is trying to help them.
As in the button pushing game, the RAD child will again, sit back and say “But I don’t want to talk about it”, “I wish everyone would just stop” but the protector will do all the bad work of defending the RAD child and assure the RAD child they’ve done nothing wrong. Meantime, the RAD child is likely also claiming the protector is abusive too, or “not really my friend.” Usually the target person had no idea there was anything going on and is often hurt, confused, and shocked by what has been said about them by the RAD child to the protector.
The Lying Game — Unattached children and adults are experts at lying. They can lie so easily because frankly, they have never developed a conscience. The RAD child has been left in the baby / toddler stage where everything is “mine” and everything is about “me.” This is not their fault, but it is something that anyone dealing with someone who has been diagnosed as unattached needs to know. They will lie about the most normal things too, not just the big things, but even normal things like having an extra glass of soda or an extra slice of pizza, or something else totally benign.
Love me Hate me game — The RAD child will often pretend to want attention and can both be overly affectionate, and unaffectionate at the same time. The RAD child might come for hugs if they see someone hugging another child, but then push you away or even bite you when you hug them. They might also, when teenagers, have very volatile relationships with the opposite sex often using sex as a tool to get what they want.
It’s all about me game — Like the love me, hate me game, the RAD child has a hard time being in situations where a celebration is happening for someone else. They will often exhibit behaviors that are inappropriate to draw attention to themselves, away from the others, and then protest about getting the attention. When punished or called out they will seek protection from whomever their protector is at that time.
These are just a few of the games that unattached children and even unattached adults play with others. Now understand that these children were more than likely abused in horrible ways that we cannot imagine.However, at some point the hard truth is that the child needs to get past that abuse, that usually happened before they were 2 years old, and move on. They cannot move on if the uninformed and untrained “protectors” are going to butt in without any professional guidance at all and claim to know more about the child in question than their actual caregivers.