As experts in the treatment of attachment disorders, we are here to support children and families facing unique challenges. Our licensed professionals are dedicated to guiding you through the journey of healing and growth, offering assistance every step of the way.
man in purple suit sitting across from red-haired woman


As experts in the treatment of attachment disorders, we are here to support children and families facing unique challenges. Our licensed professionals are dedicated to guiding you through the journey of healing and growth, offering assistance every step of the way.


What is an Attachment Disorder?

An attachment disorder is a mental health condition that arises in childhood and is characterized by significant difficulties in forming healthy and secure emotional attachments with primary caregivers, such as parents or other guardians. These disorders result from disruptions or negative experiences during the critical period of early attachment formation, which typically occurs in the first few years of life. There are two main types of attachment disorders:
  1. Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD): This disorder usually emerges in infancy or early childhood and is a consequence of severe neglect, abuse, or inconsistent care from caregivers. Children with RAD may struggle to trust and bond with others, exhibit difficulty in regulating their emotions, and may resist or avoid closeness with their caregivers.
  2. Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (DSED): DSED is characterized by an indiscriminate and overly familiar behavior towards strangers. Children with DSED may not display appropriate caution or wariness with unfamiliar adults, leading to boundary issues and potential safety risks.

The symptoms of attachment disorders can vary depending on the specific type of disorder and the individual child. It is important to note that not all children with attachment disorders will exhibit the same symptoms, and some symptoms may overlap with other psychological conditions. Here are common symptoms associated with attachment disorders:

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Difficulty forming emotional bonds with caregivers. 
  • Limited ability to seek comfort when distressed. 
  • Lack of responsiveness to caregiver attempts to soothe. 
  • Emotional withdrawal or flatness. 
  • Inconsistent or unpredictable emotional responses

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Avoidance or resistance of physical touch with caregivers. 
  • Difficulty calming down after becoming upset. 
  • Excessive clinginess or extreme independence. 
  • Engaging in self-soothing behaviors like rocking or head-banging. 
  • Engaging in self-destructive or aggressive behaviors. 

Social Symptoms:

  • Difficulty forming and maintaining healthy relationships with peers and adults. 
  • Lack of appropriate stranger anxiety. 
  • Difficulty understanding social cues and norms. 
  • Problems with empathy and understanding others’ feelings. 
  • Social withdrawal and isolation. 

It’s important to keep in mind that these symptoms may also be present in children without attachment disorders or in children with other mental health conditions. A qualified mental health professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist, should conduct a thorough evaluation to diagnose attachment disorders accurately.

Early identification and intervention are crucial for providing appropriate support and treatment to children with attachment disorders. Additionally, caregivers and families play a crucial role in providing a safe and nurturing environment for children with attachment difficulties.

Treatments for Attachment Disorders

The treatment for attachment disorders involves a comprehensive approach that addresses the emotional and relational challenges experienced by the child. It typically includes therapeutic interventions for the child and support for their caregivers. Here are some common treatment approaches for attachment disorders:

Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is a central component of treating attachment disorders. Different therapeutic approaches may be used, including:

Attachment-Based Therapy: This type of therapy focuses on building a secure attachment between the child and their caregivers. It involves helping the child and caregivers understand their emotional needs and develop healthier ways of relating to each other.

Play Therapy: Play therapy is particularly useful for younger children. It allows them to express themselves and work through emotional issues using play and creative activities.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT can be helpful in addressing behavioral issues and emotional regulation problems associated with attachment disorders.

Family Therapy: Family therapy involves working with the child and their caregivers together to improve communication, understanding, and attachment bonds within the family unit.

Parenting Support and Education: Caregivers often need guidance on how to respond appropriately to their child’s attachment difficulties. Parenting support and education can help caregivers develop effective strategies for nurturing and responding to the child’s emotional needs.

Therapeutic Parenting: Therapeutic parenting techniques are designed to meet the unique needs of children with attachment disorders. These approaches focus on building trust and emotional security while providing a structured and consistent environment.

Trauma-Focused Therapy: Many children with attachment disorders have experienced trauma in their early lives. Trauma-focused therapy can help address the impact of trauma on the child’s emotional and behavioral functioning.

Social Skills Training: For children with attachment disorders, social skills training can help them learn appropriate ways of interacting with others and understanding social cues.

Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage symptoms related to mood, anxiety, or other mental health issues that can co-occur with attachment disorders.

It’s essential for caregivers and mental health professionals to work collaboratively in the treatment of attachment disorders. Early intervention and a consistent, supportive environment are crucial in helping children with attachment difficulties form healthier attachments and develop more positive relationships with others. The treatment approach will vary based on the child’s specific needs, age, and severity of the attachment disorder.

Our Team

The NorthStar Regional team is dedicated to assisting your child and family. Our team engages in open conversations with you to determine the best strategies for overcoming these challenges. Let us guide you through the process of overcoming the impact of negative early attachment experiences.

Ready to schedule an appointment ?

Our experienced therapists are ready to help.