Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

“Saying RAD is not a ‘real’ diagnosis is like arguing Bipolar I Disorder or Autism Spectrum Disorder are not ‘real’ diagnoses.”

My son was first diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) by a licensed clinician at 11-years-old. He subsequently received this diagnosis from several psychiatrists in mental health treatment facilities and hospitals. In sharing our story, I only provide actual diagnoses we received. This is why I talk about his RAD diagnosis and not others like “Attachment Disorder” which he never received. It would be untruthful and inaccurate for me to do so. 

Mental health professionals diagnose RAD based on the criteria in Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV). You may have heard about the controversy surrounding the RAD diagnosis. However, it continues to be a valid diagnostic code (313.98) and our children are being given this diagnoses by licensed psychiatrists. Saying RAD is not a “real” diagnosis is like arguing Bipolar I Disorder or Autism Spectrum Disorder are not “real” diagnoses. 

That said, I certainly agree, that the diagnosis of RAD is not serving our children well and I strongly support the movement towards replacing it with Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD). Unfortunately, DTD was rejected from the latest version of the DSM which makes it a diagnosis not covered by health insurance. RAD, however, remained a diagnostic code in the current edition of the DSM. You can find more information on the controversy here: DTD and RAD: What’s all the controversy about?

Regardless of what we call it, my son and other children like him suffer the effects of early childhood trauma. As an advocate for him, and in trying to raise awareness of this issue, I’ve taken the pragmatic approach of focusing on the issues related to parenting and supporting these children.