Tuesday, March 10, 2015
Reactive Adoption Disorder: A Diagnosis "Not Yet" in DSM [satire warning]
Poke around on the Internet, and you’ll find plenty of sites viewing with concern the existence of adult Reactive Attachment Disorder, listing its symptoms, and revealing with dismay the devastation it wreaks on personal relationships—all this, while it’s clear that nobody is sure how they would go about diagnosing such a disorder even in school-age children, much less in older people. Yet there is no mention of a seriously problematic disorder, causing harm to both adults and children, which (like “Attachment Disorder”) is not yet to be listed in DSM.
I speak of Reactive Adoption Disorder. This problem is not found in most adoptive or foster parents, but is conspicuous in a small population found primarily in the United States, but cropping up recently in Russia. Reactive Adoption Disorder is an old and real problem whose name I just made up, and where it exists, families and children are subjected to traumatic experiences. Adults suffering from Reactive Adoption Disorder feel compelled to adopt large numbers of children whom they may not particularly like or have the capacity to care for. When these adults find themselves overwhelmed by one or more of the children in their care, they may “re-home” them by informally transferring them to the care of other adults. After some of the children are “re-homed”, the adults with Reactive Adoption Disorder find themselves in need of further adoptions, which they carry out with or without the help of adoption organizations, often becoming “serial adopters” and a danger to themselves and others.
Here are some common signs and symptoms of Reactive Adoption Disorder:
· The primary symptom of the disorder is the wish to adopt large numbers of children even when infertility is not an issue, or, for some, to be involved in adoption work and to facilitate as many adoptions as possible.
· Adults suffering from Reactive Adoption Disorder have cognitive confusion in which they conflate adopting children and bringing them up as evangelical Christians with facilitating the End Times to which they look forward as a time of their own justification.
· Adults suffering from Reactive Adoption Disorder are lacking in self-worth and do not assign much worth to their existing birth or adopted children; a sense of worth is gained by repeatedly adopting and struggling with a family that is beyond the adults’ capacities.
· Adults with Reactive Adoption Disorder have little sensitivity to indications of affection, and recognize that children have positive feelings for them only when the children are physically affectionate or state specifically that they love the adults.
· Adults with Reactive Adoption Disorder are chronically angry and seek opportunities to express their anger by instigating conflict with vulnerable children.
· Adults with Reactive Adoption Disorder demand complete control over others and are easily persuaded by suggestions that exertion of adult authority always works to children’s benefit, or that they are behaving appropriately when they arrange informally for a child to live elsewhere than the legal adoptive home.
· Adults with Reactive Adoption Disorder confuse cause and effect when they claim that a child has forced them to use severe punishment or to seek “re-homing” for the child.
· Adults with Reactive Adoption Disorder appear to have poorly developed consciences, as when their actions have harmed or rejected children they tend to show no remorse, but instead blame the child or other people for what they have done.
· Adults with Reactive Adoption Disorder are fascinated with criminal or disturbed behavior and tend to interpret normal childhood behaviors as indicating severe disturbance.
Unfortunately, the moods and behaviors of adults with Reactive Adoption Disorder make it likely that they will treat children in ways that cause the children to experience fear, anger, and helplessness. The resulting exacerbation of any existing child problems may mean that the child is placed with adults who may also mistreat or even sexually abuse him or her, or placed in a “treatment center” where medication and disturbing experiences intensify old problems and create new ones. These children may receive little education, have minimal practical experience of the world, and “age out” at 18 completely unprepared to enter adult life, as well as vulnerable to sexual and other predators.
I am sorry to say that no effective treatment for Reactive Adoption Disorder is known. However, prevention of adoption by these adults, and careful scrutiny of the work and attitudes of affected adoption workers, can at least minimize the harm done to others by the disorder. For the good of all, these people need to be stopped before they become serial adopters.