Common Symptoms of Reactive Attachment Disorder in Children, Adolescents, and Adults

Reactive attachment disorder, also known as RAD, is a condition that affects a child’s ability to bond with significant people in his or her life due to his or her emotional needs going unmet during infancy or serious abuse or neglect.

It is most likely to occur in children who live in orphanages or other institutional settings, have been in multiple foster care homes, or whose mother or primary caregiver has been physically or emotionally absent for extended periods.

As children with reactive attachment disorder get older, their symptoms fall into one of two subtypes – inhibited reactive attachment disorder or disinhibited reactive attachment disorder.

Children with inhibited reactive attachment disorder are often withdrawn, emotionally unresponsive, show no interest in what is going on around them, do not seek comfort from their caregivers, and prefer to keep to themselves.

On the other hand, children with disinhibited reactive attachment disorder may be overly friendly with strangers, lack the desire or need to stay close to their primary caregiver for safety, violate social boundaries, and seek affection from others in a potentially unsafe way.

Without treatment, the symptoms of children with reactive attachment disorder are likely to persist into adulthood and affect the way they function in society.

Common symptoms of reactive attachment disorder in children

  • Avoiding eye contact.
  • Failure to smile.
  • Failure to coo or babble.
  • Crying inconsolably.
  • Not reaching arms out to be picked up.
  • Not seeming to notice when you walk into the room.
  • Not seeming to care when you leave him or her alone.
  • Not seeking comfort or responding when comfort is given.
  • Pushing away or leaning away from a person trying to be affectionate or offer comfort.
  • Angry outbursts or tantrums.
  • Reacting violently when held or cuddled.
  • Withdrawing from social situations.
  • Lack of interest in people around them.
  • Lack of conscience.
  • Inability to feel guilt, remorse, or regret.
  • Uninterested in playing interactive games such as peek-a-boo.
  • Failure to seek support or help when needed.
  • Lack of interaction with peers.
  • Engaging in self-soothing behaviors such as rocking back and forth.

Common symptoms of reactive attachment disorder in adolescents

  • Appearing withdrawn and emotionally detached.
  • Looking sad and lethargic.
  • Lack of eye contact.
  • Dislike being touched.
  • Inability to form meaningful relationships.
  • Lacking basic social skills.
  • Defiant and argumentative.
  • Anger issues.
  • Difficult to discipline.
  • Lack of self-control.
  • Problems at school.
  • Low self-esteem.
  • Unpredictability.
  • Lack of empathy.
  • Irritability.
  • Destructive behavior.
  • Cruelty to animals.
  • Engaging in risky behaviors.
  • Failure to seek or respond to comfort when upset.
  • Avoid interacting with peers.
  • Manipulative behavior.
  • Lying.
  • Stealing.
  • Lack of conscience, and an inability to feel guilt or remorse.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Preoccupation with blood, fire, and gore.

Common symptoms of reactive attachment disorder in adults

  • Fear of being alone.
  • Minimizing feelings of hurt or pain.
  • Physically or emotionally distancing themselves from others.
  • Feel as though they don’t fit in.
  • Inability to show genuine care or affection.
  • Reject love.
  • Failure to seek support when they need it.
  • Avoid making eye contact.
  • Pushing people away.
  • Absence of joy.
  • Addictive and/or risky behaviors.
  • Lack of conscience, and an inability to feel emotions such as regret, guilt, or remorse.
  • Tendency to avoid serious relationships.
  • Communication difficulties.
  • Anger issues.

Treatment options

The focus of treatment is on strengthening the child emotionally, helping him or her create healthy bonds and relationships, and/or repairing existing negative relationships between him or her and caregivers. For adolescents and adults, there is an added focus on improving social and communication skills.

Common interventions include:


In psychotherapy, the counselor works with both the child and his or her parents to teach them how to build healthy emotional skills and reduce the problematic behaviors that prevent bonding from taking place.

Family therapy

In family therapy, the counselor works with the child and his or her family members to help them learn how to interact healthily.

Social skills intervention

Social skills intervention is focused on teaching the child how to interact appropriately with his or her peers.

Parenting skills classes

Parenting skills classes are geared toward teaching parents how to increase their responsiveness and sensitivity toward their child, meet his or her needs, and bond with him or her, as well as how to manage their child’s challenging behaviors and help him or her use the skills learned during therapy in the outside world more effectively.

If you have questions or would like to set up an appointment to meet with a counselor in Newport Beach, California, please give us a call at Newport Beach Christian Counseling. We can help you or your child address and overcome reactive attachment disorder.


Aaron Kandola. “What is reactive attachment disorder?” Medical News Today. November 2, 2020.

Elizabeth E. Ellis and Musa Yilanli. “Reactive Attachment Disorder.” StatPearls. Updated May 1, 2023.

“Pink Flowers”, Courtesy of Annie Spratt,, CC0 License

What Depression Feels Like

Do you ever wonder if you are depressed or just sad? If so, this article on what depression feels like may be for you.

Key differences between sadness and depression

Sadness is a normal emotional reaction to a particular experience such as a painful event, rejection, or disappointment. Though it temporarily changes your mood, you can still go about your day and have moments when you are able to laugh or be comforted. Eventually, it fades on its own.

Depression, on the other hand, is an all-encompassing and debilitating mood disorder that occurs without any apparent reason and that left untreated can last for months or years. It is much more intense than feeling sad or temporarily weighed down by what is going on around you and does not necessarily include sadness.

Many people with depression feel numb and unable to feel anything at all. Others, especially men, may feel anger or irritability that is out of proportion to what triggers it.

Depression alters the way your brain functions. It tends to be a whole-body experience that affects you physically as well as emotionally, making it difficult or impossible for you to function normally in your day-to-day life and causing problems at work, at home, and in your relationships with others. It has been likened to permanently wearing a pair of gray-tinted glasses that only allow you to see the negative side of things.

Things only people with depression can truly understand

Depression drains your energy level and makes every day seem like a challenge. You feel constantly fatigued and worn out. Everything seems to require more energy and take longer to complete. You have trouble staying focused on what you need to do, and taking care of everyday routines and responsibilities can feel overwhelming.

Being constantly told to look at the bright side of things or think positively is not helpful. Depression is not a choice or a mood. When you are depressed, you can’t control your thoughts. Your thoughts control you.

Depression cannot be turned on and off at will. Being told to get over it or that you have nothing to be depressed about only adds frustration, anxiety, guilt, or shame and adds to your already flagging sense of worth. Telling a depressed person to snap out of it is like asking someone with a broken leg to walk.

Depression affects more than your mental and emotional state. Depression affects your physical body as well, making you prone to headaches, muscle tension, and other unexplained aches and pains. It also affects your appetite and sleep patterns. You may have trouble falling or staying asleep or sleep too much, lose weight due to a loss of appetite, or gain weight due to an increased craving for comfort foods.

Depression is all-consuming. It is not a passing feeling like sadness. Though you may sometimes feel sad, you are more likely not to feel anything at all other than being numb to life. It is a mental illness that impacts every area of your life – family, work, and social. You no longer enjoy or have an interest in things that used to give you pleasure and may isolate yourself and avoid others even though you feel lonely.

How people describe what depression feels like

People who have been interviewed about what depression feels like to them often use metaphors such as “slogging through molasses, walking around with a pack full of rocks on my back, or falling into a deep black hole I can’t get out of.” Others describe it as “feeling there’s nothing to hope for, crying all day without reason, it’s like a heavy blanket you can’t take off, or a sense of emptiness and disconnection.”

Because of the variety of ways depression can be experienced, the MyWellbeing team interviewed 100 people during Depression Awareness Month, asking them to describe in a single statement what depression feels like to them. Below is a sampling of the responses.

  • Like fog has taken over my brain.
  • Every day is a struggle.
  • The simplest things feel impossible.
  • There is no way out.
  • Drowning.
  • Suffocating.
  • Like living on another planet where I don’t belong.
  • It’s heavy and lonely.
  • Everything is meaningless.
  • Not finding joy in anything.
  • Like fog has taken over my brain.
  • Constant need for sleep, migraines, and no appetite except for foods that are bad for me.
  • Like wanting to crawl into a cotton ball because everything around me is too much.
  • Like I’m on an island, deep in a dark cave of shame and self-hatred.
  • Feeling hopeless and worthless without an obvious reason.
  • Questioning why I am even here. Feeling like I am a waste of space and oxygen.
  • It makes the smallest tasks – like drinking water, showering, and playing with my kids – feel so hard.
  • Like the act of getting out of bed is equivalent to climbing Everest.
  • Like constantly coming up short for every single person/animal in my life.

If you feel you are struggling with depression and would like to set up a risk-free appointment to meet with one of the faith-based counselors at our location to see how counseling can help you, please give us a call today. You don’t have to walk this path alone.


Greg Dorter. “Things Only People With Depression Can Truly Understand.” ActiveBeat. Updated November 1, 2021.

Haley Jakobson. “100 People Told Us What Depression Feels Like.” MyWellbeing.

Sara Lindberg. “What Does Depression Feel Like?” VeryWell Mind. Updated November 2, 2022.

“Downcast”, Courtesy of Chad Madden,, CC0 License

Simple Ways to Connect with Your Teen

As parents, when we gaze at our teens, we are flooded with complex thoughts and feelings. How did they grow up so fast? Why, if we love them so much, do they drive us so crazy? We long for the connection that we once had with them when they were younger. All these thoughts and feelings are normal. But what is the best way to connect with your teen?

The teen years are full of changes, from physical changes that we can visualize, like height and hairstyle choices, to those we cannot see, like their thoughts and feelings. They, too, are caught in the middle of this just as much as we are, full of hormones, feelings, and pressures. This can make life feel like a roller coaster for us and them!

In the midst of this, it is easy to feel disconnected. When their preferences change, we may not recognize what they enjoy. When their feelings are all over the place, we may not feel like engaging or even know how. When busy schedules change routines, we may miss the opportunities for connecting.

While you may not be able to change what is happening, you can still find ways to connect. With some creativity and willingness to try, you and your teen can connect in new ways that strengthen your relationship.

Here are a few simple things you can try to enhance your connection with your teen.

Connect with your teen by watching what they watch

Notice what your teen is watching on television or what movies they like. They may not invite you to watch with them, but that does not mean you cannot watch. When you take note of what they are enjoying, set aside time to watch it on your own. Try to reserve judgment and simply watch.

The next time they are watching their show, mention that you started watching it. Tell them about a character you like or a plot twist that surprised you. Your teen will notice that you care about what they like. See if they invite you to watch with them. If they do not, take the lead and suggest watching an episode together.

Have their favorite snacks on hand

Teaching your kids healthy eating habits is an important part of parenting, but it is ok to have some flexibility, especially as a means of connecting with your child.

Sometimes they want chips or ice cream. Other times they will want the biggest strawberries or some new seltzer. Do what you can to make these items available. Even try to enjoy them with your teen.

This small effort can help your child feel loved and seen. It will also give you something to enjoy together!

Welcoming their friends helps connect you to your teen

Many teens feel an important connection to their friends. This is also true of people they are dating. When you open your home and your heart to their friends, it shows them that you care about them. Plus, it means they are home a little more.

Be the house your child wants to bring their friends to. This does not mean you should disregard any rules or family standards. However, you can be welcoming in ways that matter. Have cookies or snacks in the kitchen when your teen and their friend come in. Ask questions. Be curious about their opinions.

Ask about their day. Allow your teen to bring a friend when you go somewhere. When you care for their friends, you are caring for your teen at the same time. They may not say how much it matters, but they will see you trying, and every little connection counts.

Let your teen choose

One of the most common things teens want is to be heard. They want to know that what they think, feel, or want is valued. Show your teen this by letting them choose. This can be something as simple as a restaurant you go to or something more involved like an activity you do on vacation. It is not about what you do; it is about giving them a voice and honoring it.

Ask for help

You can ask your teen for help. This shows vulnerability and recognizes their growing independence, and the gifts, skills, and knowledge they are gaining as they mature.

You can also ask God for help. God loves healthy, connected family relationships. Ask Him to show you things you can do to connect with your teen. Be on the lookout for opportunities He gives you to spend time with them and value them. He is faithful to hear you and answer you.

When you need help to connect with your teen

Your relationship with your teen may feel hard. While this is normal to some degree, you do not need to wrestle with it alone. You can talk to a counselor about what you can do to connect with your teen. Likewise, your teen may find individual counseling valuable or even want to pursue family counseling to discuss things together.

All these ideas can assist you in improving and strengthening your relationship with your child. Feel free to contact us at Newport Beach Christian Counseling to see how one of the Christian counselors in Newport Beach, California can help.

“Cooking”, Courtesy of Annie Spratt,, CC0 License; “Checking Social Media”, Courtesy of Luke Porter,, CC0 License; “On the Beach”, Courtesy of Getty Images,, Unsplash+ License