Understanding Reactive Attachment Disorder Treatments

Reactive attachment disorder (RAD) is a rare condition that affects less than 1% of infants and young children. It is a serious and severe form of attachment disorder that affects children who have experienced severe trauma, neglect, or abuse in their early years. Children with RAD are unable to form healthy emotional bonds and connections with their caregivers or the people around them.

RAD is a complex condition that requires comprehensive, interdisciplinary, and individualized treatment approaches. The treatment process for RAD involves a combination of therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes to help children with the disorder develop healthy emotional attachments and social skills.

In this article, we will explore the different types of treatments available for RAD and discuss their effectiveness and limitations.

Therapy for Reactive Attachment Disorder

Therapy is an essential component of treating RAD. Children with RAD have difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships with their caregivers, family members, and peers. They may show signs of disinterest, detachment, or aggression towards others. Therapists work to form a strong rapport with the child and use different methods to engage them in the treatment process.

The most common therapy used for treating RAD is attachment-based therapy. This therapy is designed to promote the formation of healthy and positive relationships between the child and their caregiver or therapist. It involves creating a nurturing environment that fosters trust, security, and emotional responsiveness. Therapists use various techniques such as play therapy, art therapy, and talk therapy to help the child develop healthy attachments.

Another type of therapy used for RAD is trauma-focused therapy. This therapy is aimed at addressing the underlying trauma that caused the disorder. Trauma-focused therapy helps children process their traumatic experiences and develop coping mechanisms that promote emotional regulation and resilience.

Medication for Reactive Attachment Disorder

Medication is not usually the first-line treatment for RAD. However, in cases where the child has co-occurring conditions such as depression or anxiety, medication may be prescribed in combination with therapy. The most common medications used for treating RAD are antidepressants and antipsychotics.

Antidepressants are used to treat symptoms of depression and anxiety that are often associated with RAD. Antipsychotics are used to treat symptoms of aggression, impulsivity, and mood instability. However, the use of medication in children with RAD is carefully monitored as they can have significant side effects.

Lifestyle Changes for Reactive Attachment Disorder

Lifestyle changes are an important aspect of treating RAD. Children with RAD require a stable and consistent environment that promotes healthy emotional attachments. Simple changes such as a regular sleep routine, a healthy diet, and a predictable daily routine can help children with RAD feel safe and secure.

Caregivers also play a crucial role in the treatment of RAD. They need to be educated about the disorder, how to recognize its symptoms, and how to manage it effectively. Caregivers need to provide a nurturing and supportive environment that fosters trust and attachment.

The Effectiveness of Reactive Attachment Disorder Treatments

The effectiveness of RAD treatments varies depending on several factors, including the severity of the disorder, the child’s age, and the child’s response to therapy. Research has shown that attachment-based therapy and trauma-focused therapy can be effective in treating RAD. However, the success of these therapies is highly dependent on the child’s ability to form healthy attachments with their therapist or caregiver.

Medication is not a cure for RAD and is usually used in combination with therapy. The use of medication can be effective in treating co-occurring conditions such as depression or anxiety, but it should be used with caution due to the potential for side effects.

Lifestyle changes can have a significant impact on the emotional well-being of children with RAD. Consistent routines, healthy eating habits, and a supportive and nurturing environment can help children with RAD feel safe and secure.


Reactive attachment disorder is a complex and challenging condition that requires a multi-disciplinary approach to treatment. Therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes are all important components of treating RAD. Attachment-based therapy and trauma-focused therapy are the most effective forms of therapy for RAD. Caregivers also play a crucial role in the treatment process by providing a supportive and nurturing environment that fosters trust and attachment. Whilst there is no cure for RAD, early intervention and comprehensive treatment can help children with the disorder develop healthy social and emotional relationships.


What are some common treatments for Reactive Attachment Disorder?

Common treatments for Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) include psychotherapy, attachment-based interventions, learning parenting techniques, developmental therapy, and medication (in some cases).

How effective are these treatments?

The effectiveness of treatments varies from case to case, but studies have shown that early intervention and consistent treatment can greatly improve symptoms of RAD. Medication, particularly for comorbid conditions such as anxiety or depression, can also be helpful in managing symptoms.

Can RAD be completely cured?

There is no known cure for RAD, as it is a complex disorder that affects an individual’s ability to form healthy attachments. However, with early and consistent treatment, symptoms can be managed, and individuals can lead fulfilling lives with close relationships and healthy attachments.


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