Reactive Attachment Disorder in Teens

Reactive Attachment Disorder is a condition where someone struggles to make emotional connections with others due to the lack of secure attachments with adult caregivers during childhood. Many teenagers who are diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) may have experienced foster care, adoption, or extreme patterns of instability throughout childhood.

Havenwood Academy specializes in treating teenage girls who suffer from RAD and understands the seriousness of this condition. 

Reactive Attachment Disorder

When treating Reactive Attachment Disorder, we strongly believe in providing the best environment possible to allow our clients a safe attachment figure to better learn how to have healthy attachments.

What does Reactive Attachment Disorder look like?

Those who suffer from RAD consistently presents symptoms that include:

  • Withdrawn behavior toward adults
  • Rarely seeks out comfort from others
  • Often doesn’t respond to comfort
  • Anxious + fearful around caregivers
  • Struggles to create meaningful connections
  • Little social and emotional response to others
  • Negative emotional episodes even around non-threatening adults

For more symptoms and criteria of diagnoses, visit: 

What does Reactive Attachment Disorder turn into?

There are many serious risks for teens if Reactive Attachment Disorder is left untreated and can turn into:

  • Mental health issues like Anxiety, Depression, PTSD, or even Suicide
  • Poor decision-making or high-risk taking with substances or sexual activity
  • Physical health issues correlated with ACEs such as heart disease, lung cancer, and other chronic diseases. 

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) is a measurement of childhood trauma someone may experience which has been found to correlate with serious impacts on a child’s future mental and physical health. Learn what your score is by taking a self-assessment: 

Parents should take Reactive Attachment Disorder seriously. Though RAD is a rare condition, it can have serious consequences if left untreated. One parent wrote about their experience with their untreated teenage daughter’s suicide:

Reactive Attachment Disorder Can Be Caused by Unmet Needs

Reactive Attachment Disorder can be caused by extreme cases of unmet needs in children.

Acknowledge your child’s loss, parent her in a way that may not be intuitive to you, get her the right kind of help. Just ‘loving her enough’ may not be enough. Hopefully, that will save a precious life.

What causes Reactive Attachment Disorder?

There are many causes of RAD. These include extreme patterns of: 

  • Neglect
  • Abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Lack of Safety
  • Instability in home
  • High rotation of caretakers
  • Common in adoption/foster care
  • Basic needs are met inconsistently

One main cause of Reactive Attachment Disorder is a child’s unmet basic needs. Every human being must have foundational needs met like food, water, and shelter. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, no one is able to meet their needs for love and belonging (emotional bonds, meaningful connections, relationships) before physiological and safety needs are met. When children’s basic needs are unfulfilled, they find their caretakers are unreliable and untrustworthy. They then struggle to learn to create meaningful connections as teenagers because of the lack of secure attachments. 

Inconsistent Security  → Mistrust → No Emotional Relationship

Where should parents seek help?

The best way to help a teen suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder is to find treatment that “focuses on repairing and/or creating emotionally healthy family bonds.” (Cleveland Clinic).

Getting help can look like:

  • Family Therapy to heal and create connections with one another 
  • Trauma-focused Therapy like EMDR or Neurofeedback
  • Long term treatment facilities like Havenwood Academy or higher level care centers 

Parents can expect treatment required to take a long time, sometimes even life-long. Our program helps teens at their own set pace with individualized care. With weekly family therapy, EMDR sessions, and frequent Neurofeedback, we have helped countless families overcome Reactive Attachment Disorder. 

Get answers today

If your daughter is suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder symptoms, take our online assessment.  Receive a reply within minutes to learn if we or another facility can help you. 

Reactive Attachment Disorder References:


Brooks, J. (2013, July 22). My Casey’s story – a tragic end to the adoption of a baby with attachment disorder. ACEs Too High. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from


Reactive attachment disorder – DSM5. Trauma dissociation. Retrieved August 15, 2022, from


Reactive attachment disorder: Causes, symptoms & treatment. Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved August 15, 2022, from–prognosis


Trauma & attachment. (n.d.). Retrieved August 15, 2022, from


What ACEs/PCEs do you have? (n.d.). Retrieved August 15, 2022, from 


Think Havenwood Might Be For You?

We encourage any visitors considering placing their daughter in treatment to fill out our online assessment as soon as possible. This two minute form will give our admissions team all the information needed to determine if your daughter is a good fit for our program.