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ThePunkAlien Offline
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Arrow My Parents gave me Reactive Attachment Disorder - May 2nd 2009, 10:27 PM

I don't know if this would be considered triggering or not, might be, so - there it is...

I'm messed up thanks to my parents. Through continually trying to understand what makes me the way I am I stumbled upon Reactive Attachment Disorder which defines me to a t. My parents gave it to me, or rather, my birth parents by leaving their parting gift of the "primordial wound." In other words I have difficulty trusting people, always fear being disowned by my parents and rejected by my peers, and feel like a mistake.

Actually I'm unsure if it's completely their fault, they may have just laid the seed to it then the rest came from the environment I grew up in. Constantly being pushed aside and knocked down by my peers, being harassed by a teacher (who happened to be the principle's brother, thus I couldn't do anything), and letting in my peers only to be tormented by them in return. This constant abuse from those angles constructs another one of the causes of RAD - radical huh?

Basically in my heart due to the primordial wound, I'm more of a pessimist than an optimist, you're classic lone wolf - who also seeks to prove that he's human from time to time, and sees everything in my life as fleeting and fragile no matter how much I'm shown the contrary and how good things can get at times.

I'm trying to get over it though, I've surprisingly already come a long way, just don't know how long it will take.


At times:
> Seems angry
> Shows signs of depression; withdrawal
> Self-protect by keeping people at a distance
> Manipulates
> Wants to find biological parents

1. Superficially engaging and charming
2. Does not trust caregivers or adults in authority (fear of being disowned)
3. Resists all efforts to nurture or guide them (includes pulling away from familial hugs, to the degree that they can't help but bring it up - they don't know about RAD though)
4. Acts out negatives, provoking anger in others (Birthdays & holidays especially, note unconsciously)
5. Manipulates
6. Argumentative (I'm a hot head)
7. Extreme control problems
8. Poor peer relations

Many adopted children develop RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). When the child is taken away from its birth mother, even if it is put in the home of a family giving the child love, this child is confused and knows this is not the same mother it had and its trusting abilities are lessened. Some have so many layers of anger and rage that negative behavior is exhibited constantly. Others may decide to be a complacent and pleasing personality because they want to make sure that these new parents are not disappointed or else abandonment will follow. Another choice is not to get close to anyone because this relationship probably won't last and getting close will be painful when it ends. Several adult adoptee's I've spoken to have confirmed this behavior.

It is common for adoption issues to remain hidden until adolescence. Sometimes a child seems well adjusted and happy during the early years and then everything comes out. It is also very common for the child to stay in denial and hide deep feelings from everyone, even themselves, and in their adolescence - which is an identity search time - these feelings rise to the surface.

RAD children have learned early on that the world is unsafe and have developed unhealthy protective shells so the outside world cannot pierce it and then they feel safe. They become their own protectors and as such can turn everyone against them.

They learn not to trust or love and are unable to attach to anyone, causing them to be very resistant later to attachment if they are adopted. Trusting is very difficult for RAD children. Trusting means to love - and loving hurts. They have been hurt too deeply.

They want your anger because they handle it better than love. I believe they have so much anger, turmoil and pain inside that they relate better to it.

These children have many layers of anger and rage, but it is based on fear that they will be abandoned again because they can't trust and believe deep down that they are not good enough for someone to love them. Their birth mom gave them away. It is amazing to hear some of these children tell you that they hoped their Moms could see them now as adults because then she would know that they didn't turn out to be such a bad kid. I've heard grown ups talk this way. This little child inside never leaves.

Sometime during our lives, we all cross paths with attachment disordered individuals. In business, they are the ones having trouble getting along with others, or they have a desk in the back of the room and don't mingle with others.

RAD people are very controlling. They need to control in order to feel safe. Usually when they were very little children and could not control their environment, bad things happened to them.
As said, I'm slowly getting over it, but it's still a haunting looming presence over my whole life. Still fear rejection. Still fear being disowned. Trying to hide that I'm an alien living amongst humans.

Although my life's coming together, even with having an academy award winning father's son as a great friend and an internship at Warner Brothers, this pursuit to succeed is not for fame, not for money, and nope - not for the girls either. It's part of the whole need to make my adoptive parents proud to see that they made the right choice and prove to my birth parents that they were wrong about me. At times this weight and pressure to succeed based purely upon a personal need to prove myself worthy makes it a very intense and at times depressing battle to the top; because I feel that if I don't make it that will prove my birth parents right and I would have let my adoptive parents down.

Luckily, if you haven't noticed - sense of humor in sarcasm has been one of the constants although it's a defense mechanism. It helps. So, thanks for screwing me up Mom and Dad.

Ironically my kindergarden teacher prior to seeing "adoptee rage," which is so common it actually has a name, and my love for film made the prophecy that I'd either be the next Lex Luthor or Steven Spielberg. Just so happens, Spielberg and I agree about one point on adolescent angst and the importance of escape...

"All those horrible, traumatic years I spent as a kid became what I draw from creatively today."

One thing that helps though is knowing that this is all in my mind today. I'm not longer harassed by my peers and my parents have consistently shown signs of being there for me. Thus, it's just a matter of accepting the past, which I'm gradually on the forward path of making a reality. Despite how scornful I might sound, I've actually come a long way and I'm more integrated in the world than ever before - though still somewhat of a pessimist and a whole Atlas complex.

Prior to this year, Junior, I had zero friends in college and never hung out with anyone from college and hadn't made a single friend since I was five years old. This year I have a friend at college, talk and interact with my peers, and have made a couple friends already over in Los Angeles. Thus, the good is gradually overcoming the bad - just hope I can completely vanquish this RAD thing that my parents gave me one day.

Last edited by ThePunkAlien; May 2nd 2009 at 10:46 PM.
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Re: My Parents gave me Reactive Attachment Disorder - May 3rd 2009, 12:08 AM

First, I would like to say that the quote you gave is unsuitable for judging whether you have a disorder or not. It gives only symptoms and when you said it defines you to a t, I assume you mean a therapist. Any therapist who diagnoses using only symptoms is one that I'd leave right away. The reason is quite simple, look at the symptoms you provided only and nothing else. Most of them overlap with a variety of other disorders, so a criteria and differential diagnosis has to be used, otherwise you might as well just slop on whatever disorders fit those common symptoms you do have.

So, the criteria I found for it is:

Diagnostic criteria

ICD-10 describes reactive attachment disorder of childhood, known as RAD, and disinhibited attachment disorder, less well known as DAD. DSM-IV-TR also describes reactive attachment disorder of infancy or early childhood divided into two subtypes, inhibited type and disinhibited type, both known as RAD. The two classifications are similar, and both include:
  • markedly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate social relatedness in most contexts;
  • the disturbance is not accounted for solely by developmental delay and does not meet the criteria for pervasive developmental disorder;
  • onset before five years of age;
  • a history of significant neglect;
  • an implicit lack of identifiable, preferred attachment figure.
ICD-10 states in relation to the inhibited form only that the syndrome probably occurs as a direct result of severe parental neglect, abuse, or serious mishandling. DSM states in relation to both forms there must be a history of "pathogenic care" defined as persistent disregard of the child's basic emotional or physical needs or repeated changes in primary caregiver that prevents the formation of a discriminatory or selective attachment that is presumed to account for the disorder. For this reason, part of the diagnosis is the child's history of care rather than observation of symptoms.
In DSM-IV-TR the inhibited form is described as: Persistent failure to initiate or respond in a developmentally appropriate fashion to most social interactions, as manifest by excessively inhibited, hypervigilant, or highly ambivalent and contradictory responses (e.g. the child may respond to caregivers with a mixture of approach, avoidance, and resistance to comforting, or may exhibit "frozen watchfulness", hypervigilance while keeping an impassive and still demeanour).[2] Such infants do not seek and accept comfort at times of threat, alarm or distress, thus failing to maintain "proximity", an essential element of attachment behavior. The disinhibited form shows: Diffuse attachments as manifest by indiscriminate sociability with marked inability to exhibit appropriate selective attachments (e.g., excessive familiarity with relative strangers or lack of selectivity in choice of attachment figures).[2] There is therefore a lack of "specificity" of attachment figure, the second basic element of attachment behavior.
The ICD-10 descriptions are comparable save that ICD-10 includes in its description several elements not included in DSM-IV-TR as follows:
  • abuse, (psychological or physical), in addition to neglect;
  • associated emotional disturbance;
  • poor social interaction with peers, aggression towards self and others, misery, and growth failure in some cases, (inhibited form only);
  • evidence of capacity for social reciprocity and responsiveness as shown by elements of normal social relatedness in interactions with appropriately responsive, non-deviant adults, (disinhibited form only).
The first of these is somewhat controversial, being a commission rather than omission and because abuse of itself does not lead to attachment disorder.
The inhibited form has a greater tendency to ameliorate with an appropriate caregiver, while the disinhibited form is more enduring.[24] ICD-10 states the disinhibited form "tends to persist despite marked changes in environmental circumstances". Disinhibited and inhibited are not opposites in terms of attachment disorder and can coexist in the same child.[25] The question of whether there are in fact two subtypes has been raised. The World Health Organization acknowledges that there is uncertainty regarding the diagnostic criteria and the appropriate subdivision.[1] One reviewer has commented on the difficulty of clarifying the core characteristics of and differences between atypical attachment styles and various ways of categorizing more severe disorders of attachment. [26]

[edit] Differential diagnosis

The diagnostic complexities of RAD mean that careful diagnostic evaluation by a trained mental health expert with particular expertise in differential diagnosis is considered essential.[27][28][29] Several other disorders, such as conduct disorders, oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety disorders, post traumatic stress disorder and social phobia share many symptoms and are often comorbid with or confused with RAD, leading to over and under diagnosis. RAD can also be confused with neuropsychiatric disorders such as autism spectrum disorders, pervasive developmental disorder, childhood schizophrenia and some genetic syndromes. Infants with this disorder can be distinguished from those with organic illness by their rapid physical improvement after hospitalization.[9] Children with an autistic disorder are likely to be of normal size and weight and often exhibit a degree of mental retardation. They are unlikely to improve upon being removed from the home.[9][27][28][29]

[edit] Alternative diagnosis

In the absence of a standardized diagnosis system, many popular, informal classification systems or checklists, outside the DSM and ICD, were created out of clinical and parental experience within the field known as attachment therapy. These lists are unvalidated and critics state they are inaccurate, too broadly defined or applied by unqualified persons. Many are found on the websites of attachment therapists. Common elements of these lists such as lying, lack of remorse or conscience and cruelty do not form part of the diagnostic criteria under either DSM-IV-TR or ICD-10.[30] Many children are being diagnosed with RAD because of behavioral problems that are outside the criteria.[27] There is an emphasis within attachment therapy on aggressive behavior as a symptom of what they describe as attachment disorder whereas mainstream theorists view these behaviors as comorbid, externalizing behaviors requiring appropriate assessment and treatment rather than attachment disorders. However, knowledge of attachment relationships can contribute to the etiology, maintenance and treatment of externalizing disorders.[31]
The Randolph Attachment Disorder Questionnaire or RADQ is one of the better known of these checklists and is used by attachment therapists and others.[32] The checklist includes 93 discrete behaviours, many of which either overlap with other disorders, like conduct disorder and oppositional defiant disorder, or are not related to attachment difficulties. Critics assert that it is unvalidated[33] and lacks specificity.[34]


Some authors have proposed a broader continuum of definitions of attachment disorders ranging from RAD through various attachment difficulties to the more problematic attachment styles. There is as yet no consensus, on this issue but a new set of practice parameters containing three categories of attachment disorder has been proposed by C.H. Zeanah and N. Boris. The first of these is disorder of attachment, in which a young child has no preferred adult caregiver. The proposed category of disordered attachment is parallel to RAD in its inhibited and disinhibited forms, as defined in DSM and ICD. The second category is secure base distortion, where the child has a preferred familiar caregiver, but the relationship is such that the child cannot use the adult for safety while gradually exploring the environment. Such children may endanger themselves, cling to the adult, be excessively compliant, or show role reversals in which they care for or punish the adult. The third type is disrupted attachment. Disrupted attachment is not covered under ICD-10 and DSM criteria, and results from an abrupt separation or loss of a familiar caregiver to whom attachment has developed.[46] This form of categorisation may demonstrate more clinical accuracy overall than the current DSM-IV-TR classification, but further research is required.[47][6] The practice parameters would also provide the framework for a diagnostic protocol.


I suggest reading through all of that first, then reflect back on yourself. Elsewhere in that link you'll find that, as with many psychological disorders, its causes are relatively uncertain. Definataly there's contribution from parents and social interaction but that's only looking at it from a nurture perspective. The nature and nurture (which every competent mental health care professional adheres to) includes some amount of genetics. So, I think you are correct in saying it's not completely due to your parents' fault.
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Re: My Parents gave me Reactive Attachment Disorder - May 3rd 2009, 01:06 AM

Hi there, Josh. =]

Although it's easy to get carried away while reading about different psychological disorders, it is important that you do not self-diagnose. These are commonly very wrong, and can cause you to unconciously attempt to "fit the mold"; this could cause worse problems later on in life.

That being said, it is quite common for children who were adopted to have problems forming emotional attachments and relationships. This is understandable; in child development, Erikson's first "crisis" is Trust vs. Mistrust. Children who are neglected, abandoned, or just not given much affection learn mistrust; a trait that could potentially follow them their entire life. (You can read more about Erikson's Developmental Stages here).

It is likely that your resolution to this crisis was negative, as are those of many adopted children.

I am so glad that you seem to be working through this. Try to continue on the path you are on; you can and will overcome your past. You are cared for; you do not need to "prove" yourself to anyone. Whether or not you are happy with yourself is all that truly matters.

Take care. Feel free to shoot me a PM if you'd ever like to talk. ^_^

"For the first time
in a long time,
I can say that I wanna try.
I feel helpless for the most part,
but I'm learning to open my eyes.
And the sad truth of the matter is,
I'll never get over it,
but I'm gonna try
to get better and overcome each moment
in my own way"

Motion City Soundtrack, "Even If It Kills Me"
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Re: My Parents gave me Reactive Attachment Disorder - May 3rd 2009, 01:40 AM

Looking at my parents wouldn't be from a nurturing perspective they did absolutely nothing for me but give me away. All of this is from a more unconscious psychological level. Adoption/ Orphans / etc. are the groups that are found most with having RAD. That's me.

The criteria matches, every other site I look at matches up. I can see how abuse could cause it also, but I'm from the adoption standpoint. Thinking that there's something so innately wrong with me that my birth mom never loved me, that those that knew her thought of killing me in her womb, that I was never meant to be - I'd classify giving children those kinds of messages as a form of unknowledgable abuse. I consider it the better alternative to abortion, but not much more than that and whenever I verbalize it - let's just say it gets REALLY intense - and I sword I'd never do that if I ever became a father. I'd rather die than do that to someone.

Interesting that they stated there's a coexistence of the inhabited and disinhabited... also "Common elements of these lists such as lying, lack of remorse or conscience and cruelty do not form part of the diagnostic criteria under either DSM-IV-TR or ICD-10." because that was the one element that didn't seem like it fit, because although I fear a darkness within & aggressive at times - I do have a sense of remorse & I don't consider myself cruel.

I don't act human though. Never have. Many have noticed and many have pointed it out to me. I'm a lot like a robot, I consider myself to be an alien. I can't respond normally to being loved even by my family. I can't show love, I can't tell love, because innately that term has been linked to abandoning me. Love means abandonment and that has shaped my life.

So, nurture? Not in any way, shape or form. It's all based purely on a psychological stand-point and the unconscious memory of being given away. I lived nine months in my mother's womb, beyond that I don't know her. All I know is I relate to the other adoptees who have never felt connected to this world and are falling through the sky... to me that storch baby story may as well be real.


I'd like to say that being fine with myself would be enough, but it's not. I need to grasp onto something to make me feel human and a reassuring sense that my birth parents were wrong. It's like all eyes are on me watching to see if I succeed or fail - and if I fail, that means I was a mistake. That's how my mind works. I can't fail. I'm the type that gets extreme physical symptoms when I'm afraid that I might get a bad grade or fail something because to me that equates letting my adoptive parents down which is linked to being disowned. For me when I got my first driving ticket the first thought that popped into my mind was my Dad disowning me and the possibility of being put in an orphanage - despite how much they showed me their the opposite of that sort of parent - it's not something I like, it haunts me.

Plus it's not just attachment. The other symptoms line up exactly as well such as the inappropriate anger aspect. That dark side of adoption that's sometimes mentioned on how it can affect an adoptee? That links back to me and I knew all of this prior to hearing terms such as Reactive Attachment Disorder and Adoptee Rage- those just allow me to put names on what has always been a constant in my life. I don't like not having answers, probably because at least some answers I can find while others - such as my "identity" - are forever shattered in half thanks to the way the international system works.

Also have to state that I am and am not fine by myself. I know who I am, I'm fine with being an introvert and have become a lot more social and have actually attained friends recently for the first time in a long time. But, there's still the innate feeling of there being something wrong with me as though it's an unstated fact - if that makes sense. So it's more a sense of being split in half, that's the best way to state it. I'm fine with who I am, I'm fine around people, but I can't kick the fear of being abandoned again by someone because for me that abandonment is very real - if my own mother could, anyone could.

Last edited by ThePunkAlien; May 3rd 2009 at 02:15 AM. Reason: Multiple posts have been merged automatically.
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Re: My Parents gave me Reactive Attachment Disorder - May 3rd 2009, 02:27 AM

When will you be back in NY Josh? Ever since I am now back in NJ, I have been going to NYC somewhat often. We can create our own wolf pack haah!

It seems like you hold an ager against your blood parents. Blaming your parents for your troubles is not helpful in the longterm. In the short-term, it helps alot. Being able to find a concrete answer to a complicated problem. To be able to focus the rage at one sure thing. I think in order to move on, you have to forgive your parents for what they did. Talk about the problem with a priest. It's a free 1 on 1 councelling service. It might help in the forgiving process. Your parents could have aborted you and you would not be here today. They felt you had a better chance in life by being adopted. Perhaps your parents were poor and could not adequately take care of you. Out of love they did what they did. Your mother went into labor so you can live. Your parents did not abandon you. They gave you a better opportunity at life.

I am no psychologist. It almost was my degree choice. But I just want you to know your adopted parents would never abandon you. You are their son. The only difference between an adoptive parent and a biological parent is that you share similiar DNA. Love transcends blood.

But never doubt that you have control of your destiny.

It might be hard, but have you thought about being open with your parents about your feelings? Basically what you told us here.
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Re: My Parents gave me Reactive Attachment Disorder - May 3rd 2009, 02:34 AM

Originally Posted by WillB View Post
It might be hard, but have you thought about being open with your parents about your feelings? Basically what you told us here.
That's the worst thing I can do in my mind. I tell them everything, they see how weak I am, they start looking at me differently and that alone would kill me. Same reason I distrust psychologists, my parents find out I'm seeing anyone - they'll be able to naturally dig the truth out of me, they'd find out and then, as said before, I'm doomed. May not be logical, but nothing in this "lost" place in the world does. If it's one thing I learned - adoption and logic, don't mix well.

Plus, with adoption, it's hard to distinctly classify how one feels towards their parents because it's somewhat different for those who haven't been adopted. I hate them for what they did, I'm sad about what they did, I'm happy about what they did, I'm confused about what they did, I'm knowledgable about what they did. Imagine having a million scattered pieces from the wreckage of a so-called life and trying to piece all of those back together into a puzzle piece that makes sense - but, then, there's also another thousand pieces that will never be available to you. Ever. So it's not completely any feeling at all, it's the most mixed up amalgamation known to man.
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