Adjustment Disorder: What Is It and How to Deal With It

What are the symptoms and causes of adjustment disorder and how can you deal with it?

Adjustment Disorder

People go through millions of changes as their lives progress. You have an adjustment disorder if you don’t know how to cope with the random events that life throws at you. Marriages, chronic illnesses, traumatic accidents and work-related problems are only a few of the daily challenges that people have to face all through their lives. Sometimes it takes people long to adapt to the change in their lives. However, if years go by and they are still feeling iry about past changes, they must get treatment for adjustment disorder.

What are the Predisposing Factors for Adjustment Disorder?

The exact cause of adjustment disorder are unknown. There are, however, a few factors that will make you more at risk of developing it.

  • Changing your job, losing it or retiring from it.
  • Death of a loved one (a relative, a parent or even a pet).
  • Surviving assault or a traumatic event like rape, sexual abuse, physical assault or a car crash.
  • Marriage with all the baggage that comes with it whether moving in with your partner, having a baby, settling down after a life of singlehood or losing a child.
  • Ending a relationship whether through divorce, breaking up or death of the loved one.
  • Being diagnosed with chronic illness.
  • Bullying.
  • Drastic career changes.
  • Sexuality and gender identity issues.
  • An ongoing stressful situation like living in a war-torn country or a crime-ridden neighborhood.
  • Other existing mental health problems.
  • Poverty.

Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorder could be an acute mental disorder (less than 6 months) or a chronic one (6 months and more). In case of the acute type, the symptoms are relieved by removal of the stressor. As for the chronic illness, medical intervention has to be made before the case is further complicated.

Generally speaking there are two categories for symptoms of adjustment disorder:

Emotional Symptoms:

  1. Misery.
  2. Hopelessness and despair.
  3. Episodes of crying on a regular basis.
  4. Anxiety (including separation anxiety).
  5. Insomnia.
  6. Lack of concentration.
  7. Suicidal thoughts.
  8. Nervousness and uneasiness.
  9. Disturbed emotions, ranging from depression to excessive emotional state of being.
  10. Marked distress.

Behavioral Symptoms:

  1. Impairment in social and occupational environments.
  2. Erratic driving, getting into bar brawls, torching, vandalism of personal property (disturbance of conduct).
  3. Skipping school and not paying attention in class (maladaptive reactions).
  4. Avoiding all social events, even within your small family.
  5. Ignoring daily routines and obligations including paying the bills, answering the phone or replying to text messages.

How Common Is Adjustment Disorder?

Adjustment disorder is one of the most common types of mental disorders. Women are two times more liable to get it than men. This mental disorder is very common with war veterans who spent years away from home and might lead to more serious complications in their cases such as bipolar disorder, antisocial personality disorder and major depression.

What Is the Treatment for Adjustment Disorder?

Psychotherapy is the treatment of choice for dealing with adjustment disorder. Treatment methods and options may vary but they should all be within a supportive, non-judgmental environment. In case of acute adjustment disorder, the stressor should be removed with the patient’s behavior monitored closely during therapy. Whatever the method of treatment chosen may be, it should always be solution-focused with a short-term plan. Therapists should explore forms of social support as well as devise variable coping techniques for their patients to deal with existing troublesome situations in their lives.

Forms of psychotherapeutic methods include:

  1. Family Therapy (works best in case of adolescents).
  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
  3. Stress Management Therapy.
  4. Group Therapy (through self-help groups).

In some severe cases, your therapist might describe a mild anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication to treat your underlying symptoms.