What Are the Symptoms of Attachment Disorder?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2014
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According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-IV, an attachment disorder is a psychological disorder in which a child does not or can not develop a healthy attachment to his caregiver. This is not related to other developmental disorders, such as mental retardation, and can often lead to poor social relationships. The symptoms of attachment disorder may vary, depending on a person's age. For example, infants showing symptoms of this disorder may seem unusually disinterested in other people around them, and young children may appear withdrawn, or prefer to be alone. As a child gets older, he may become more defiant or possibly aggressive toward others around him, especially his caregivers.

Many times, symptoms of attachment disorder will be present when an individual is a baby. Babies with attachment disorder will seem somewhat detached from other people and will often seem to prefer being alone. For instance, he may resist, cry, or squirm when someone tries to pick him up. He may also not smile at other's actions, nor will he watch other people as they move about a room.

In babies, a lack of interest in playing can also be another symptom of attachment disorder. Along with showing little interest in toys, he may also not enjoy typical baby games that a parent can play with him. Peek-a-boo or tickling, for instance may be met with disinterest or disdain.


As a child gets older, the signs of attachment disorder may become more prominent. Unlike other toddlers or kids his age, a child with attachment disorder may show little interest in group activities with his friends. Instead of playing ball with a group of children, for example, he might be found hiding out on the edge of the playground, by himself. Although he may watch others, there will generally be no interest in joining them.

When upset, a child dealing with attachment disorder may resist being comforted. He might run away from or become angry with his caregiver, if she tries to give him a hug when he is crying. Depression and intense moods are a couple other symptoms of attachment disorder.

Older children and adults often show the same symptoms of attachment disorder, but there will also likely be other symptoms as well. As an individual gets a little older, aggression towards one's peers and caregivers is one of the more common signs of attachment disorder. Teenagers with attachment disorder are also more likely to be defiant or impulsive.

Besides the inhibited behavior — wanting to be left alone — that many individuals with attachment disorder may show, some may also show disinhibited behavior. This means that they would prefer not to be alone, and may constantly need help with small tasks. Often, these types of sufferers shower complete strangers with unwarranted, inappropriate attention or affection.


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