Reactive Attachment Disorder usually occurs in children who have been physically or emotionally abused when very young. It can also occur in those that have been neglected, or in children who have been orphaned.

It develops usually in children under the age of 5 years. Due to the lack of care that the child has received in their early years, this then makes it difficult for the child to form any bond or emotional attachment to their caregiver – usually their mother. They also find it difficult to then form and establish any future relationships.

This disorder can be seen in children who are extremely young, even babies. The signs can be listlessness, unsmiling, lack of interest in watching what is going on in a room and self-soothing habits, for instance rocking back and forth. In toddlers and those slightly older symptoms will vary. They can include a withdrawal from any kind of social interaction, avoiding and feeling uncomfortable with those who reach out to them for instance to comfort them, a failure to ask for help if they are struggling with something and they will display a constant awkwardness and discomfort. They may also show inappropriate familiarity and closeness to strangers. Their behaviour can be aggressive and defiant.

Reactive Attachment Disorder continues into adulthood and can lead to many further problems including alcohol and substance abuse, depression, anxiety, anger problems, inappropriate sexual and antisocial behaviour.