Do you embrace or reject RAD as a formal diagnosis?

A little more than 11 years ago, I entered the wide-world of Internet information with one goal:  find the truth about my own birth-story and adoption.  Like many adult adoptees, I found myself joining Adoption.con.

It's within those pages I first learned the phrase, Reactive Attachment Disorder.

I took a look... the list of symptoms described me to a T... and I was hooked.  [Ironically, in nursing school, we were taught NOT to look at a list of symptoms and say, "Yes!  That's the problem!" because that's how fatal mistakes can be made.]

Because I was so desperate to learn more about myself and solve my own problems, I began posting like a mad-woman within a very small online support group for "adults with RAD".  It did not take very long to be asked to help moderate the growing group.  My qualifications were:  I had experience with adoption, abandonment, and various types of neglect and abuse (physical, mental, emotional, sexual).   Truth is, at the time, that's ALL I knew... but my posts were drawing a lot of attention, and my email was filling with all sorts of stories and responses.  At the time, all that mattered was, I was a popular hit.  After a while that got me pissed because many more were joining the group, and few had answers that helped adults who were suffering in really empty, miserable, (abusive) barren relationships.

Back then, I was buying into the site's belief that Reactive Attachment Disorder is a very real condition, with very real symptoms and a very grim prognosis/future.  I felt as though I found my support-group, (my cyber-home), and had no reason to question the intentions of the webhost/owner.  [She is an AP, who started the site because she was having trouble parenting her own adoptee.... it never occurred to me her website was created for a reason... to create an alliance with those who practice Attachment Therapy.]

I have since read more about the business-side of RAD... the types of therapies being used on children, and the people supporting the belief that attachment disorders need to be addressed in a very specific way.  [See:  Federici ]

I have also been reading how no definitive diagnosis can be made because too many variables exist in the adopted/fostered child.  Variables like autism, FAS, and types of trauma all make it seem very difficult for me to truly believe each RAD case is the same, so how can one single label be properly used if evidence-based therapy does not exist and many believe doctors have special interests of their own?

As I see more and more AP's posting RAD-related blogs, I feel like I must ask others -- what do you think?  Is RAD a very real diagnosis, or is it just another adoption label being used to cover major depression, PTSD, and other issues therapists really do not know how to address?


my family was one of their victims :(

I guess you want no names ....

I whole heartly am 100% against RAD at this point.... all adoptive and foster care kids ARE NOT TRASH... which is what I also think the system and the RAD cult is selling when they say, and they do that all foster and adoptive kids main and usually only problem is adoption...

and by the way, when I met the owner of that group all her kids were basically doing FINE... the oldest was married and working.... the other 2 (Bethany and Jonathan) were fine, just kids... not major defects with major problems... and she did have both on meds (another really big issue with me) they say they Post program works, 100% for willing parents...100% med free, yet many kids disrupted adoption anyway... many kids were on meds... ... the owner on the site was sitting on her fat ass, living off her kids adoption subs and what she begged from the web site, and acting like her kids were all screwed up... and they just were not... someone even gave her her house...

attachment is not the be all end all issue...

sure most of the kids have PTSD (social workers themselves do that to people)

and a heck of a lot now a days have brain damage from drug exposure (that is sooo underplayed now a days)

I also think that RAD is being used by the system to keep these kids from having real families.... I honestly do. they act like each and every kid in foster care or adoption is totally trashed, will always be a pain to have around....

JUST cause someone says they are an expert does not mean they are...

and oddly you probably ran into me on that other site as well...

thanks for being out there.... thanks for caring enough to question...

Loved this post


And I've seen this far too often--these people see and treat the children like they are nothing more trash.

More on this subject

I have spoken to a few social workers about this.

Here are some things to consider.

Family adopts/fosters another child
They think: how great is it that we can take in another kid?
Kid thinks: I am so worthless I have to live with all of these other messed up kids.
They think: I do such a great job finding clothes and toys at garage sales and thrift stores for all of these kids.
Kid thinks: I am not worthy of nice new things.
They think: We economize with cheaper food and meals to feed a large group.
Kid thinks: I am not worthy of having good food and satisfying meals.
They think: Isn't it great the kids all have each other?
Kid thinks: I am not lovable. I am not worthy of good relationships. Why bother?

Kid acts out based on their feelings of worthlessness and inability to trust given previous losses.
Parents think, there is something really wrong with the kid because he/she isn't bonding with us, isn't settling into this environment....kid gets RAD label.

hit the nail on the head

The comment with the parent/kid thinking is right on. I never could figure out why my financially struggling family, who had 3 biological children already decided to take me on. They never understood that I wasn't grateful just to have shelter, but that I had more needs than their other children. I'd had enough of being just one of the heard. They tried to make me feel special by telling me that I was special every once in a while, but it was all crap.

I don't know a lot of about the official condition called RAD, but I do feel that I've had a certain level of detachment from the beginning. I think an understanding of what goes on in the head of an abandoned/institutionalized child would help adoption agencies a lot to screen for the right type of parents if used correctly. But I don't know how feasible it would be to try to screen out parents who were adopting out of their own God complex.

I'm skeptical

Interesting question! 

First off, I am skeptical about many psychological diagnoses to begin with. The entire design by commission aspect of it doesn't seem scientific to me. Every year thousands of new therapists enter the job-market that need to somehow find a way to make a living. I believe as a result of that many new mental illnesses are being created to accomodate the employment need of so many new therapists. If it's not yet true for the upcoming DSM V, then it will probably be true for the DSM VI that 100% of the people on this earth are covered by some sort of diagnosis that is being covered with some form of therapy.

That said. The RAD diagnosis concerns me even more than any other, because it derives from a pre-condition, one of abandonment and or institutionalization and then lists some characteristics of children having had such a back ground as a disorder. So where most DSM diagnoses derive from characteristics, RAD derives from back ground, a back ground that in case of adoption neatly links to the relative affluence of the people adopting children.

I think when it comes to child placement, trust issue are likely to play a role, and that's where RAD feeds into, but are these trust issues always unwarrented. Only a cursory look at the abuse cases we have listed, is telling that at least some adopted and fostered children had every reason to mistrust the people they were living with. Sometimes mistrust is a natural response to a very real situation.

Real or RAD

I think reading a bit on  RAD, and looking at some of the sites linked to the subject it is a 'Catch All Excuse' kind of label. Certainly there are many labels that do apply, RAD doesn't seem to fit for many. Many children of "disfuntion" are antisocial, suffer PTSD, deppression, plus a whole host of issues. RAD is too broad a term for so many individual cases. Each child suffers in their own way. Each child reacts in their own way. Even siblings who are in the same abusive situations often respond differently. To lay such a broad label on any one set of symptoms is an injustice to the individuals own actual sufferings. I think society needs a label to identify/simplify the many such issues surrounding the mental health of many such people who can't just have 1 problem. The PTB are doing a diservice IMO to the actual suffering of the victims. Science has shown so much- the affects of even the mothers moods, diet, and exposures to the fetus inside the womb. Neve mind what a child is born into at the time they are actually born. There are far to many variables to label any group of people with RAD. Never mind the children that are labeled w/out being adopted, fostered, or institutionalized.These were just kids raised in the same family. I don't buy the label 1 bit. My apologies to those who swallow it hook, line, and sinker but this is just my oppinion.

Underlying problems

I so wholly agree with so much that has been written.  [Thanks go to all who have taken the time to respond.]

What bothers/concerns me is the way in which so many underlying problems are being overlooked.  If you have two people born, neglected/abused, AND adopted, what makes one person a sadistic psychotic, and another a compliant "agreeable" individual?  What makes one murderer/rapist, and another CEO of a thriving business?

From what I have read so far, too much clinical attention goes into defining a time-line of events, (age of removal and time away from kind/consistent care)... and too little focus goes into the types of brain dysfunction a child could have, "from the beginning".

Science has shown so much- the affects of even the mothers moods, diet, and exposures to the fetus inside the womb.

The issue about pre-natal care is HUGE!!  How many so-called RAD children are in fact victims of some sort of en-utero substance use?  Has any of this been extensively studied?  [Do so-called RAD's have to have a certain IQ?]

Past underlying

Let us count the ways we can not be an individual. RAD is 1. there is no way to define RAD. There are way too many vaiables. Along w/ in utero, birth order, birth itself, enviroments, maybe someone dropped the child on it's head,(didn't want to say). Then there are the interpersonal personality clashes. Attitiudes, Education, Nature versus nurture.There are so many GD variables there's no way to simply clasify it as 1 thing. Therapists can't even call themselves doing there job if they lay this crap on people. I have never heard of this diagnosis until I came in here. I will not buy it either. I know all too well we are not clay and can't be expected to just get remolded. Humanity is not that simple. Abuse is still abuse, You can't mix chicken shit  with chicken salad and call it fit too eat. Excuses to label individuals as simply RAD is removing all responsability from the biological/enviromental factors. The many symtoms do not all add up to 1 thing. Finding ways to reteach the bad behaviours to the individuals who show them is essential. Givng them real world coping skills that are tailor filted to their issues is the only way to fix what was broken in the first place. The acting out is a symtom of something else, underlying. It could be biological,medical, or enviormental. The real shame is since no 1 really investigates the WHOLE situation as it relates to those labeled RAD, looking into every nook and cranny, and not taking someones word for it - they are shortchanging the real money that could be made by actually seeing with their own 'professional' eyes, not some case study.

Often there is a real good explaination for a given behavior,for example; (if you are chained to the floor in a bus, and you crap on the floor, why should you be beaten for the act of crapping the floor when you had no where to go as you had to go. So the behavior is stated from the parents to the PTB- as he craps on the floor.- No mention is given of the child being chained to the floor, or of the many beatings you've given as the only attention the child is actually given. Since you can't be bothered to take the child to the bathroom.) A normal response to the nature of the need is to crap on the floor.There is no other acceptable behavior.

I watched my own child losing her desire to speak up, and even go to school as she wasn't being listened to for trying to protect herself. I saw it as a sure way to teach her she had no value and to shut up and take it. Prerequisit to being abused by men or others in future relationships.

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