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RAD and Teenagers and Adults

Updated on March 15, 2015

As children with RAD become teenagers and adults the outward issues change, but the root cause is the same: inability to form intimate reciprocal relationships or to empathize, inability to trust, and lack of conscience. These may manifest in varying degrees and forms.

The teens are a time when even healthy young people are seeking approval of others. The young person with RAD has a great gaping hole, an intense craving for love and approval, but doesn't believe it can be genuine when it is given. Relationships are more like contracts: I give you this if you give me that. For example, a girl will have sex in order to have the status of having a boyfriend, A boy will be friendly in order to have privileges of sharing another's games. He may steal from his friends or parents in order to get what he wants. She will lie in order to keep receiving the benefits of a relationship. I know these characteristics are common in many teenagers, but with RAD youth they go to an extreme. The incidences of crime, drug use and teenage pregnancy are almost universal.

Friendships and relationships don't last long. When the time comes to become more intimate, it is easier to start over with someone else. Or if a better option shows itself, they switch.

Rules and restraints become intolerable as they develop individuality. Many run away, or get arrested. Suicide and self mutilation are very common.

Adults have difficulty maintaining a relationship or keeping a job. By adulthood they have usually learned enough about social rules to imitate healthy interaction. They know what people should feel in certain circumstances, so they may try to feel that way, or claim to feel it. They know that immoral actions usually bring unpleasant consequences. However, if they feel they can get away with it and still have something they want, they will still do whatever they want. By this time their skills of manipulation are well refined, and they don't tolerate frustration well.

I have been told that there are two windows of opportunity for reaching a person with RAD. One is in early adolescence, and if they are not in jail or dead another opportunity is in the thirties. These are the times when a person may open up and learn to have real relationships, and have the intense craving satisfied. These are the times when one may be reached for Christ. I am not saying there is no other opportunity, because God can do anything. But these are the natural times of crisis and realization that make it more possible.

Caring for a teenager or adult with RAD is very draining, because of the constant manipulation and lying. Just when the caregiver feels they are getting through, the RAD person will do something to betray them. This will happen over and over. The difficulty is figuring out how to show love and compassion without feeding the desire to manipulate. But maintaining the relationship over the years can get the message across that they can be loved regardless of what they are or do. But in the end, each person must choose their own way, and reap the consequences.

To read more about RAD see:

Introduction to RAD

Types of RAD

Helping parents dealing with RAD

Tough Love for RAD


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