What Is Attachment Disorder?


Quick Answer

Attachment disorder is a psychiatric illness where a child is unable to form emotional attachments to other people, says the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Types of attachment disorders include reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder, adds Medscape.

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Full Answer

Children who have undergone physical or emotional abuse and neglect, inadequate care, or out-of-home placement, such as foster care and orphanage, can suffer from attachment disorder. Multiple traumatic losses or changes in a child's primary caregiver can also lead to the illness. Children with attachment disorder exhibit symptoms such as failure to gain weight, detached and unresponsive behaviour, defiant behavior and being too accepting of strangers, explains the AACAP. Other symptoms include crying inconsolably, avoiding eye contact and rocking to self-comfort, according to the Counselling Directory.

Children with reactive attachment disorder rarely seek comfort when distressed; have minimal social and emotional response to others; are irritable, sad or tearful; and rarely express joy. Symptoms of disinhibited social engagement disorder include seeking help or comfort from strangers, lack of reticence when interacting with unfamiliar adults and reduced checking back with the caregiver when in unfamiliar situations, advises Medscape.

Treatment involves therapies that aim to understand and strengthen the child's relationship with his primary caregiver. Before any treatment, a qualified mental health professional should conduct a comprehensive psychiatric evaluation on the child, advises the AACAP.

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