What is Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder?

illustration of person speaking

This is a Trauma and stressor related disorder in children; it tends to occur in young children who have experienced neglect, trauma, abandonment, or abuse. Its essential feature is a pattern of behavior that involves inappropriate and overly familiar behavior with relative strangers, thus violating the social boundaries of the culture.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Children are not shy or scared but excited when they meet strangers or unknown people.
  • ‌They are extremely friendly, chatty, or physically close with strangers.
  • ‌They behave in a socially unacceptable manner according to social norms.
  • ‌They leave a safe space and go away with a stranger.
  • ‌They don’t ask their caregiver or hesitate before going away with a stranger.
  • ‌They are impulsive and socially disinhibited.
  • ‌They have not been cared for adequately and have a history of trauma or abuse

What to do if you think your child may have Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder?

If you suspect your child may have this disorder you should take them to your nearest primary care facility to be evaluated and possibly referred to the nearest Child Psychiatry facility.

If diagnosed with this disorder, the treatment will help the child to overcome negative experiences and grow up to form meaningful relationships with parents and caretakers.

The treatment involves the entire family so that the child can bond with their caregivers. Treatment can include the following therapies depending on the child’s age:

  • Talk therapy
  • Play therapy with toys and games
  • Art therapy

There are steps that parents and caregivers can take to help children form bonds and manage their behaviors.

Provide stability: it’s essential to provide the child with stable, reliable, and consistent care.

Set expectations and rules: In addition to having expectations for behavior, it is important to let children know what they can expect. Clearly explaining rules and consequences can provide children with a greater sense of consistency and establish boundaries.

Develop routines: Foster consistency by having household routines that you follow every day. Helping kids know what to expect and then sticking with it can help develop a sense of trust in caregivers. 


  1. Introductory textbook of psychiatry sixth edition (DSM5 edition).
  2. Medscape: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/915447-overview
  3. https://webmd.com/children/what-is-disinhibited-social-engagement-disorder

Prepared by:

Dr. Annesa Harrypersaud
GPHC Psychiatry Department