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Attachment Disorder

Private attachment disorder treatment, therapy and support in London at Schoen Clinic Chelsea

Attachment disorder refers to a broad term used to describe difficulties in forming and maintaining healthy and secure emotional connections with others. It often stems from disruptions or negative experiences in early childhood, particularly during the crucial period of attachment formation. Attachment is the emotional bond that develops between a child and their primary caregiver, usually a parent or guardian.

young girl wearing a hoodie, sat cross-legged on a bed as their mother tries to talk to her

What causes attachment disorders?


Attachment disorders are a complex type of mental health issue that have multiple interconnected causes, but they tend to be rooted in childhood trauma or developmental experiences. These experiences usually shape an individual's experience of what constitutes a secure relationship with a parent or guardian. Some of the things which can ignite or exacerbate attachment disorders include childhood trauma or neglect, such as physical, sexual or emotional abuse.


Those that are displaced from family and develop in the care system can also be impacted. Issues such as frequency changes in caregivers, such as multiple foster parents, those raised as orphans, or movement around a primary caregiver such as grandparents or a wider family network can also impede the consistency and continuity in caregiving are crucial for healthy attachment formation.


Issues can also stem from the parent or caregiver side, such as parents who are also dealing with significant mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse. These issues will also lead to an inconsistency of care for their children, impacting the developmental attachment process. Sometimes parents can be insensitive, emotionally detached from parenting, or fail to understand their child's real needs, which can also disrupt the formation of a secure attachment, leading to problems later in life.


What are the most common attachment disorder symptoms?


As a complex mental health condition, reactive attachment disorder has some symptoms that can overlap with other conditions, sometimes making diagnosis in isolation difficult.


  • During your consultation with us, we’ll get to the bottom of the things which are causing you the greatest challenges, but we’ll be primarily looking for:

  • Unrequested affection or overfamiliarity with stranger in particular

  • Avoidance of eye contact, or reluctance to seek comfort

  • Inability to show empathy, or indifference to feelings

  • Difficulty sustaining relationships, especially with new people

  • Inability to give affection when it would be socially ‘normal’

  • Difficulty in trusting others

  • Defiance, especially in children or younger people.


RAD is complex and getting to the bottom of symptoms can be difficult. But with the right type of professional support from the mental health specialists at Schoen Clinic, recovering from attachment disorder in London is possible.


What are the different types of attachment disorder?


There are two main types of attachment disorder:


Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)


This type of disorder refers to children who are less likely to interact with other people, owing to negative life experiences during childhood development. They are suffered by those who don't form an emotional bond with their parents or caregivers, often in those who are adopted or orphaned.


Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder (DSED)


This type of attachment disorder is characterised by engagement in overly physical ways that are not reflective of the relationship. For example, willingness to be led away with strangers or inviting physical contact such as hugging with people the individual is not familiar with. These impulsive behaviours are common and show a lack of social boundaries, typically brought on by neglect during infancy.

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Get in touch today for specialist attachment disorder support


If you're looking for support for attachment disorder, please reach out to our caring team in London today. We have appointments available in as little as 24 hours so you can begin treatment with minimal wait.


To access private treatment as swiftly as possible, simply fill out our online pre-screening questionnaire at any time to suit you.


How much does treatment for attachment disorder cost?


The cost of different types of treatment, therapy or support will vary. See our full breakdown of our prices and funding options for more information or specific costs.

Getting a diagnosis of an attachment disorder


The most important step on the road to recovery from an attachment disorder is getting a professional diagnosis from a healthcare professional.


During your initial assessment with us, our empathetic and caring team will gather information about your history, and family dynamics, and understand the feelings you’ve been having, and what your symptoms look like. This might include an interview-style format and questions which touch on your interpersonal relationships and how your attachments have formed with others.


Following this, we'll assess the severity of your symptoms, and understand the nature of your condition. Using the evidence-based Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) your healthcare professional will then determine how you meet the criteria for an attachment disorder.


We'll then discuss with you the options available to start your treatment, whether therapy, medication or further analysis. You can ask us questions and we're here to help you understand any diagnosis and what it means for you, as well as detail any support available.


Treatment for attachment disorders in London


Treatment for attachment disorders tends to be similar, whether it is of the RAD or DSED type, though specific treatment plans will vary depending on the patient's age, symptoms, and severity of the condition.


Treatment will centre around stability and consistent care from parents or caregivers. The stability means that children in the foster system need a regular carer and won't move from home to home or with different caregivers.


Parental classes can also help from the parental perspective, to help manage difficult behaviours in children, or parenting techniques to provide a child with the love and care that they need.


Therapy will typically involve both parties and education on what a healthy relationship and boundaries look like. This parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT) is often used with younger children and parents, and centres on creating a healthy relationship. Trauma-focused CBT (TF-CBT) can also help individuals process and deal better with traumatic experiences at any point in their lives.


Counselling, whether individual or as a family unit can provide a safe space for those suffering from attachment disorder to express feelings and address concerns related to attachment.


Other techniques used to help in treatment can involve, depending on age and severity of conditions, play-based therapy (for younger children), social skills training (focussed on communication skills and emotional regulation), support for caregivers, and in some instances, medication can be used to help with related issues such as anxiety or depression brought on by attachment disorders.


All of our treatment plans are tailored towards your bespoke needs, and we'll focus on making your recovery as effective and efficient as possible. If you're unsure about what treatment for an attachment disorder would entail for you or your child, feel free to speak to one of our team.


Is attachment treatment the same for adults and children?


Attachment disorders usually form in childhood though their impact can be felt throughout adult life.


Treatment of children often involves a combination of psychotherapies such as play therapy, and therapy with family present, which helps to create a secure and nurturing environment, helping the child understand trust and develop healthy bonds with those around them.


In contrast, adults with attachment disorders are more likely to require individual therapy to understand and work through their challenges. Therapy may focus on how past experiences have led to challenges later in life, and developing more secure attachments in current and future relationships.


While the underlying principles for treatment are similar, we’ll work with you during your initial consultations and assessments to understand what approach will work best for you and your family, to ensure you get the right form of treatment, for your individual circumstances.


What is the best type of therapy for attachment disorder?


The best of course of treatment for an individual suffering from attachment disorder is a highly bespoke and often unique decision.


Successful treatment depends on the nature of the condition, the individual's age, their relationship history, and personal preferences towards the type of treatment. The most common types of treatment are listed above, but usually entails a combination of talking therapies, play therapies for younger individuals, counselling, and sometimes medication to alleviate symptoms.


If you’re unsure about any of these, or which would work best in your circumstances, the Schoen Clinic Chelsea team can help uncover the best course of action - get in touch using the form at the bottom of this page.


Is attachment disorder treatable?


While treatment is possible, the effectiveness depends on various factors, including the severity of the attachment issues, the age of the individual, and the presence of supportive caregivers.


One of the most important factors in a successful treatment is early intervention. By catching issues before they develop into more serious concerns, the chance of a more impactful treatment increases. Attachment disorders are challenging to treat but are widely studied and with the right combination of a strong support network, specialist therapy from experts in attachment and other mental health disorders, recovery is possible


Forming healthy attachments vs unhealthy attachments


Forming attachments with friends and family is critical to our well-being, and how we cope with forming and developing relationships is often rooted in our childhood. Attachment covers the deep emotional bonds that we make, usually between a child and a parent or guardian, so when this bond fails to develop or breaks down, it can cause significant challenges in our lives.


While some of us find it a natural and positive process, attachment disorders can make it difficult to form and maintain healthy and secure emotional connections with others, no matter how close to us they are.


It often stems from disruptions or negative experiences in early childhood, particularly during the crucial period of attachment formation. If you feel like you or someone you care about has difficulties in forming attachments with others, Schoen Clinic can help uncover any issues that might be making things tough.

Recovery from attachment disorder in London is possible with help from Schoen Clinic


Recovery from attachment disorders is possible, though depending on severity, it is possible that those suffering from more severe forms of attachment disorder may have their relationships impacted for their entire life.


Factors which determine the likelihood of a successful recovery include the overall severity of the disorder, the age at which any treatment begins, the ongoing presence and development of supportive relationships, and the individual's responsiveness to treatment.


As attachment disorders are complex and rooted in childhood, their treatment will present a range of ongoing emotional, behavioural, and social challenges. It is important to note that without intervention, it is highly unlikely that attachment disorders will ‘go away’ on their own, so if you or someone you love is suffering any of the symptoms, do not hesitate to contact Schoen Clinic and our team of specialists can help you recover.


What is the best type of therapy for attachment disorder?


The best course of treatment for an individual suffering from attachment disorder is a highly bespoke and often unique decision. Successful treatment depends on the nature of the condition, the individual's age, their relationship history, and personal preferences towards the type of treatment.


The most common types of treatment are listed above, but usually entail a combination of talking therapies, play therapies for younger individuals, counselling, and sometimes medication to alleviate symptoms. If you’re unsure about any of these, or which would work best in your circumstances, the Schoen Clinic Chelsea team can help uncover the best course of action - get in touch with our team today.


Is attachment disorder treatable?

Meet our specialist psychiatrists, therapists and counsellors in attachment disorder


Our specialists in attachment disorders have dozens of years of experience in treating complex cases and will have likely helped people like you or your child get better from these challenging conditions.


Learn more about the team, or get in touch to book an appointment with your chosen specialist below.

Dr James Woolley

Consultant Psychiatrist | ADHD Specialist

Dr James Woolley

Dr Edel McAndrew

Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Dr Edel McAndrew

Dr Tara Tofiq

Consultant General Adult Psychiatrist

Dr Tara Tofiq

Magdalena Garcia

Clinical Psychologist & Integrative Psychotherapist

Magdalena Garcia

Dr Gil Myers

Consultant Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist

Dr Gil Myers

Dr Adrienne Key

Consultant Psychiatrist

Dr Adrienne Key
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