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TW: Talks about Mental Health Disorders and Drug Addictions

Anxiety, Depression, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, and Anorexia. According to Davis Behavioral Health, a mental health agency, these are the most known mental disorders. In today’s world, mental health and mental health awareness seems to be booming. 10 years ago today mental health was a no-no zone, an unspoken agreement of not normalizing mental health. Though we are always improving, we have come such a long way. There are various mental disorders that have come out of hiding, disorders we have learned to normalize and talk about. Almost. Yet when it comes to attachment disorders very little facts and discussions are provided, especially when it comes to the most extreme attachment disorder, RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder). Why is it that attachment mental disorders are so limited with what we know about them? Why are we not spreading awareness of attachment disorders, like RAD? What are we so afraid of? 

Attachment disorders is a broad term intended to describe disorders of mood, behavior, and social relationships arising from unavailability of normal socializing care and attention from primary care giving figures in early childhood. RAD is a condition found in children who may have had grossly negligent care and don’t form healthy emotional attachments with their primary caregivers — usually their mothers — before age 5. In my personal experience, RAD showed up in my life very early in my childhood because of my adoption story. I am adopted because both of my parents are drug addicts. When my biological mother was pregnant with all of my siblings and I, she chose to do addictive drugs, like cocaine, heroin, and meth to name a few. She even delivered me literally while being high. Obviously this is a major hazardous issue. Because from the minute I was born, I instantly did not have that  personal connection to my caretakers, like my parents. My young mind learned that only I could take care of myself. I went almost my very 1st year of life never receiving love or emotional care because I was in the hospital going through drug withdrawal or moving through the foster care system. Because of this I was never able to develop or trust anyone relationally, whether that be physically, emotionally, or mentally. That is when RAD became part of my life, but little did I know it was there. Because of RAD it is hard for me to trust others or hold any kind of relationship whether that be romantic, family, friendships, or professional relationships.  

So because this disorder is literally one of the most extreme disorders by the definition of all of the attachment disorders that exist, why is it that we know so little about it? What are we so scared of? Why is there very little research, facts, and awareness for attachment disorders, especially RAD? The first obvious answer is because it’s a mental disorder. Though I believe that should not be an excuse for having such restrictions and limited information on it, it is very hard to research, identify, and find a resolution for people that struggle with attachment disorders, like Reactive Attachment disorder because it’s mental. Unfortunately it is a disorder that as much practice and as much therapy a person can take it’s in their mind, so it’s mainly them that have the choice of whether or not it goes away or lessens. That is absolutely terrifying especially since it is pretty much going against a certain way of life that people with RAD have only ever known. 

Now that you know the definition of RAD and how it is entwined in my life, being a college student, it impacts every single aspect of my life on a daily basis. I also know that this is such a hushed up mental disorder that students across the world struggle with in their lives. According to Discovery Mood and Anxiety program, a mental health treatment center, adults living with RAD will naturally struggle with any kind of relationship because they will either demonstrate a lack of sympathy, they will avoid physical intimacy, they are reluctant to share their feelings with others, and they have very little emotional investment in others. Obviously these are things, though not all of them, that I do on a daily basis that I’m still learning to be aware of. These are things that I don’t necessarily do on purpose but I do it more because it’s a natural instinct, that unfortunately at an early age, I was conditioned to only believe in. Another impact that RAD has on college students is their preference to being alone or not socializing. This is something that I am extremely guilty of, and though to an outsider being alone may not seem like a big deal, it’s actually very detrimental underneath. The reason why this is such a negative impact for college students is because it further isolates them in a way that they shouldn’t be isolated to begin with while strengthening that belief that they’re safe when they’re alone. It also cuts off most opportunities to create relationships with their college community and their peers around them. 

With all that being said I’m going to end this article with how I am to this day living with RAD. I do have counseling once every two weeks that has slightly helped with my disorder. However, going to therapy and doing exercises to help me with RAD is actually very hard because it is going against everything that I’ve ever learned. People with this disorder have always been on high alert internally, so it’s like I’m having to train my brain to relax. It’s like I’m trying to train my heart to become a free-flowing river rather than a hardened frozen lake. It’s like I’m trying to train my ears to zone in on the pitter patter of the rain rather than the howling thunder. It almost feels unnatural, but I know one day, I may not eventually get rid of this disorder completely, but I know one day I will wake up different for the better. I read a book (I will put the link for that book below) and one line in this book describes Reactive Attachment disorder people as military soldiers. For those who are unaware, people in the military go to boot camp to be on high alert and to always have their eyes and ears peeled for danger. In this book that I read it describes people with RAD as already naturally being wired like that. As a human species it is not normal to always be in fight or flight mode. It is not normal to always be on high alert with your surroundings. That is why when you join the military you spend months training because you’re not naturally like that, but people with RAD have perfected that technique. The downside is that it is the only technique that they use and the only technique that they believe in.

Link to the book I referred to: Inside: Understanding How Reactive Attachment Disorder Thinks and Feels: Sanford MA, Timothy L, Hovanec-Wright, Dannie: 9781534649477: Amazon.com: Books

Chloe Pearson

Winthrop '24

Just a God-fearing chica that is way to addicted to makeup and about $80,000 in student debt. We love… Hopefully the next best MUA and NY best time selling author. Work hard and dream big!
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