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How to Overcome Disordered Attachment

A disruption in the caregiver-child bond can have lasting effects on a child’s mental health and ability to form healthy relationships as an adult. Those who are experiencing disordered attachment can benefit from therapy and treatment that help them overcome their trauma and learn how to trust again.

While there is no single cause of a disordered attachment, it usually arises from an environment that causes severe emotional neglect or abuse. These disorders are often associated with pathogenic care, which refers to any type of caregiving that doesn’t meet a child’s essential needs. Typically, this type of care is found in institutional settings such as foster homes and orphanages, though some children with this condition can also have a parent or caregiver who is inconsistent in meeting their child’s needs.

The main types of disordered attachment are reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder. RAD is characterized by a pattern of emotionally withdrawn behavior from caregivers, while DSED is characterized by indiscriminate and intense social behaviors. Both RAD and DSED are classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) and are considered developmental conditions that need treatment.

Children with a disordered attachment may exhibit many different symptoms, including difficulty regulating emotions and showing aggression. They may also have a difficulty with learning and memory. They can be resistant to signs of comfort and show little interest in the affection that is offered to them, including hugging. They can become impulsive and lash out at others, especially if they are feeling threatened or unsafe. They can also have difficulty forming close bonds with others and are prone to using unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as self-destructive habits or risky sexual behavior.

There is also a link between disordered attachment and eating disorders. Those with this condition are more likely to experience anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder. These behaviors may be a way for them to cope with feelings of anxiety or low self-esteem.

In many cases, children with a disordered attachment will need intensive and ongoing treatment, even after they find a new caregiver who can provide them with the care they need. Unlike other types of therapy, psychotherapy for this condition can involve the child’s previous caretakers to help them understand their child’s behavior and improve their relationship with him or her.

Other treatments for a disordered attachment include family therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Family therapy focuses on helping the entire family learn how to communicate better, while CBT is designed to identify, challenge, and replace negative thought patterns and automatic behaviors. By changing these, a person with a disordered attachment can develop more stable and rewarding relationships as an adult. In fact, a recent study found that people with an insecure attachment are more likely to have an antisocial personality. While there is no proof that attachment disorders are the root cause of this condition, it is important to treat them to avoid serious problems down the road.

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