Adult Attachment Disorder Signs and Treatments

Reactive attachment disorder stems from neglect or abuse as a child. When children do not have their basic needs for emotional attachment met they tend to have trouble developing relationships as adults.

This happens when children are separated from their parents or severely neglected. To ease the pain, children become detached and have more trouble forming relationships and connections with new caregivers. They find it hard to trust. If the detachment is not addressed early on in childhood, it turns into a psychological disorder in adulthood. The good news is there is treatment if an adult with the disorder seeks help. This article will help you understand more about reactive detachment disorder in adults and ways to live with and manage it.

Signs of Reactive Attachment Disorder in Adults

The signs of reactive attachment disorder need to be present in groups of two or three to be considered this disorder. The symptoms also need to be present for a significant period of time. The signs include:




Adults with this disorder may not be able to trust others they are very close with.

Control Issues

They need to have control over their lives, people around them, and events. They may use manipulation tactics, steal, cheat, and lie to control their environment.

Anger Issues

They often cannot control anger and lash out at others. They may even be destructive, display cruelty, and be very hostile. They tend to be argumentative and seem to have a lot of frustration and stress. When they are not angry, they isolate themselves and seem depressed.

Impulsive Behavior

They do things on impulse without taking the time to think about choices. They often may regret the impulsive decisions, but some do not feel any regret.

Provocative or Negative Behaviors

Constant negative emotion and thinking generally surround the person’s entire being. They do not like feeling this way alone and will provoke others to feel the same way or try to get others to agree with their negative emotions.

Resistance to Love

They have trouble connecting to others or show empathy towards others. They cannot seem to allow themselves to be loved or give love in return. They also have issues with affection

Resistance to Guidance

Adults with this disorder do not receive guidance well from others. They refuse to take anyone’s advice or listen to what others think about issues. They tend to be unreasonable.


They do not take responsibility for their own actions. They shun responsibilities towards others.


Attachment disorder can lead to addiction including gambling, sexual, alcohol, and drugs. They may also throw themselves into their work. They may also suffer from shopping and eating disorders.


They often feel helpless and like they have no support system. They feel like others around them accuse them for anything negative that happens. The helpless feelings often follow depression, isolation, and withdrawal from others.


They tend to have trouble figuring out solutions to issues. They are confused about life and appear puzzled. This causes trouble with concentration, problems with attention, and inability to complete activities.

Positive on The Outside

Overcompensation with positivity on the outside is possible. In order to hide the dysfunction inside, they tend to give off an appearance of being overly charming. They have the ability to have interesting conversations with others and talk for long periods of time keeping people engaged.

Other symptoms include:

  • Prefers working independently
  • Very self-reliant
  • Overly critical of other people
  • Passive-Aggressive behavior
  • Seems too busy for social life
  • Jealousy
  • Emotionally overindulgent once in a relationship
  • Failure to maintain long-term relationships

People with the disorder crave affection and love from others. They have trouble showing these needs to others due to fear and sadness from negative experiences when they were young. They don’t seem to have a grasp of the emotions that come with attachment.

Therapy is often troublesome because they don’t understand why they feel how they feel. It is hard for them to “talk” about the issue at hand either due to lack of trust for the therapist or withdrawal from that type of connection with anyone. Moving towards treatment can be tricky.

Treating an Adult with Reactive Attachment Disorder

The fear and sadness that accompanies reactive attachment disorder in adults is very common. These adults crave affection and love from others, but have trouble reaching out to others. Because of negative emotional experiences when they were young, they don’t understand what love and attachment truly is.

Because of their emotional blocks along with trust issues, “talk-therapy” is usually ineffective at first because of the barriers to communication. It takes a very experienced therapist and program that incorporates touch therapy, rebuilding emotions, and work on releasing any mental and emotional blocks.

Many therapists use “role-playing” to treat attachment disorders. An expert can do a thorough assessment for the disorder and come up with a specific treatment plan. Often, support from a trusted friend or family member in the beginning can help to release some of the emotional blocks to help the therapist in their work. They may be asked to attend therapy sessions in order to bring comfort and security.

More severe cases may need treatment by a psychiatrist with both talk sessions and medications. Medication would only be temporary in the beginning to help with any severe depression and withdrawal issues.

Supporting an Adult with Reactive Attachment Disorder

Reactive attachment disorder in adults can be tricky and take years to complete. The more receptive the sufferer, the faster coping skills are learned. The first step in treatment is getting them to address the fact that there is an issue with this disorder and having them agree to treatment. This can be a challenge for loved ones.

In order for treatment to be successful, loved ones need to gather around them in support. A sound support system coupled with therapy is most often successful and adults can go on to learn how to form lasting and loving relationships.

Preventing reactive attachment disorder is possible if the condition is dealt with at an early stage. Here’s more information on reactive attachment disorder shared by one who’s been there:

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