.Attachment disorders are a type of mental health condition that can develop in children who have experienced neglect or abuse. These disorders can cause problems with emotional and social functioning and can lead to difficulties in forming attachments with others. Although attachment disorders differ from other mental health conditions, they share some similarities. Here we will discuss attachment disorders, how they differ from other mental health conditions, how they affect adolescents, and what parents can do to help their teenagers.
What Are Attachment Disorders?
Attachment disorders are a type of mental health condition that can develop in children who have experienced relational trauma, neglect, or abuse. These disorders can cause problems with emotional and social functioning and can lead to difficulties in forming healthy attachments with others. Although attachment disorders differ from other mental health conditions, they share some similarities.
There are two types of attachment disorders: reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and disinhibited social engagement disorder (DSED). RAD is characterized by symptoms such as avoidance of touch, indifference to a caregiver, lack of eye contact, failure to smile, and lack of concern for a caregiver. DSED is characterized by symptoms such as impulsivity, over-familiarity with strangers, clinginess, and indiscriminate affection. Both types of attachment disorder can cause problems with emotional regulation, social skills development, and academic achievement.
How Do Attachment Disorders Differ from Other Mental Health Conditions?
Attachment disorders share some symptoms with other mental health conditions such as anxiety, mood, and conduct disorders. However, there are some key ways in which attachment disorders differ from these other conditions.
Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive fear or worry that is not appropriate for the situation. Mood Disorders involve disturbances in mood or emotions. Conduct Disorder manifests as a pattern of aggressive or disruptive behaviors. One key way attachment disorders differ from these conditions is that they primarily involve problems with attachments to others rather than other symptoms such as anxiety or aggression. Additionally, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and conduct disorders can occur without a history of neglect or abuse whereas it is not always necessary for that trauma to form an attachment disorder. Or a disruption in the relationship with the primary caregiver. This is often seen in cases of adoption or even at birth. It can be thought of as trauma as opposed to abuse.
How Do Attachment Disorders Affect Adolescents?
Attachment disorders can affect adolescents in many different ways. For example, they may have difficulty developing close relationships with peers or adults. They may also struggle with academic achievement or suffer from low self-esteem. Additionally, teens with attachment disorders may be more likely to develop substance abuse problems or engage in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex or driving under the influence.
What Are the Warning Signs Parents Should Watch For?
Parents should be aware of the following warning signs that may indicate their teenager has an attachment disorder:
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Difficulty trusting others
- Lack of eye contact
- Failure to smile
- Disinterest in activities that used to bring joy
- Acting out at school
- Risky behavior
- Substance abuse
- Trying to meet their connection needs through injuries/medical issues
If you notice any of these warning signs in your teenager, it is important to seek professional help as soon as possible. Early intervention is crucial for preventing further difficulties down the road.
How Can Parents Help Their Teenager With an Attachment Disorder?
Parents play a vital role in helping their teenagers cope with an attachment disorder. First and foremost, it is important that parents provide their teens with a safe and supportive home environment. Additionally, parents should help their teens identify and express emotions in healthy ways. Parents should also encourage their teen to seek professional help, if necessary. This might involve meeting with a therapist individually or attending family therapy sessions together. Finally, parents should educate themselves about various mental health conditions so they can better understand what their teen is going through.
Attachment-Based Family Therapy (ABFT) is an effective treatment option for attachment disorders. This type of therapy focuses on strengthening the bond between teenagers and their families. The therapist will work with the family to help them understand the teenager’s condition and will teach them how to effectively communicate with their teen. ABFT is particularly effective in reducing impulsive and aggressive behavior in adolescents with attachment disorders.
There are warning signs that parents should watch for because left untreated these adolescents may become adults who struggle to form healthy relationships and be self-sufficient. If you think your child has an Attachment Disorder please get them professional help right away. The earlier it’s caught, the easier it will be to treat. Have more questions and concerns? The staff at Solstice East are here to help. Please contact us today to see if we can help you and your child.