There is a quiet war raging in the mental health and social services communities, and it all has to do with a relatively rare disease, reactive attachment disorder, which only affects 1% of the world’s children under five years old (Balasingham). Of course, by those numbers that is still about 6 million children (“World Midyear Population”), and it disproportionately affects children in the foster care system (Balasingham). And really what this war boils down to is simple: the numbers versus the damage the kids face. On one side you have people who believe focusing on such a rare disorder, even within the context of the foster care system, distracts from other prevalent and equally damaging diseases. On the other side, some argue that because RAD is so damaging and more prevalent in foster children, it deserves focus.
Acute stress disorder is diagnosed as a result of someone exhibiting certain symptoms after experiencing or being involved in a traumatic event. The symptoms, lasting between three days and four weeks, have to show up within the four weeks following the event. Frequently people will suffer from flashbacks and nightmares, which leads to them avoiding anything that will remind them of the illness. They can develop anxiety and powerful dissociative symptoms such as feeling numb or detached, being unaware of their surroundings, and even feeling that the world around them isn’t real (“Acute Stress Disorder Symptoms”). Ironically, it’s these symptoms that may help them recover. A study done by Richard A. Bryant, Rachel M. Guthrie and Michelle L. Moulds found that patients diagnosed with acute stress disorder, respond better to hypnosis, a therapeutic technique, than those without ASU or a subclinical form. This is thought to be the case because their dissociative symptoms increase their hypnotizability (Bryant, Guthrie, Moulds). Hypnotherapy can help because it focuses on replacing negative reactions to events with healthier ones (“Hypnotherapy”).
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Anxiety is a natural response that our bodies use when confronted with stressful situations. Everyone has experienced nervousness or apprehension before a big event at some point in their life, but for people with an anxiety disorder, that worry and uneasiness can hit them sporadically and start to negatively impact the way they live. Even though anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the United States, only “about one-third of those suffering receive treatment” (“Facts and Statistics”).