Therapy and Medication for Adjustment Disorder

Therapy and Medication for Adjustment Disorder




Let’s first begin with understanding “what are adjustment disorders?” Adjustment disorders refer to certain conditions that an individual may experience when he/she has extreme difficulty in coping with any stressful life event. For example, the death of a loved one, unemployment, relationship issues, etc. Every individual deal with stress in their regular life, but some people face extreme & intense trouble in handling and managing certain stressors. They find it hard to deal with the stressful situation, resulting in the inability to adjust to that particular stressful event. This is what refers to the adjustment disorder. 


Adjustment disorders can cause severe psychological symptoms and physical symptoms as well. Both adults and children can be affected by adjustment disorders. 


Medication, therapy, or a combination of both is applied in order to treat these disorders. Adjustment disorders consist of six types, each type having distinct signs & symptoms:-


  1. Adjustment Disorder with depressed mood

  2. Adjustment Disorder with anxiety

  3. Adjustment Disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood

  4. Adjustment Disorder with disturbance of conduct

  5. Adjustment Disorder with disturbance of emotions and conduct both

  6. Adjustment Disorder unspecified


Symptoms of Adjustment Disorders


An individual may exhibit various psychological and physical symptoms that are associated with adjustment disorders either during the phase of the stressful event or immediately after experiencing the stressful situation. With proper treatment & help, an individual can recover from his/her adjustment disorder in a short span of time, and usually, these disorders are treated within the time period of six months unless the stressor continues to exist. 


Though adjustment disorders do not last more than six months, the individual may continue manifesting the physical or psychological symptoms even after the six months, if the stressor is not removed. 


The psychological symptoms of adjustment disorders may include:


  • Crying, suicidal thoughts

  • Self-doubt

  • Lack of confidence, loss of self-esteem

  • Attention issues, lack of focus & concentration

  • Nervousness, Anxiety

  • Withdrawn attitude, unsociability

  • Feelings of hopelessness, sadness, being trapped, etc.

  • Impulsive or rebellious actions & behavior


One type of adjustment disorder includes physical symptoms along with psychological symptoms as well. The physical symptoms may include:-


  • Body pain or soreness

  • Fatigue

  • Disturbed sleep pattern, Insomnia

  • Digestive issues

  • Muscles twitches, shaking or trembling


Types of Adjustment Disorders


There are six types of adjustment disorders, each having distinct symptoms:-


Adjustment Disorder with depressed mood 


 Individuals who are diagnosed with this type of adjustment disorder usually experience feelings of sadness, hopelessness, being trapped, etc. Crying is also one of the symptoms of “Adjustment Disorder with depressed mood”. Individuals who experience this type of adjustment disorder tend to lose their interest in the activities that they used to enjoy earlier. 


Adjustment Disorder with anxiety 


 Being overwhelmed & worried and feelings of anxiousness & nervousness are some of the symptoms that are associated with “Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety”. Individuals who experience this type of adjustment disorder may also face attention and memory issues. They have difficulty in focusing & concentrating, and even remembering things. Children who are diagnosed with “Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety” have an intense fear and anxiety of being separated from their parents and loved ones.


Adjustment Disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood 


Individuals who are diagnosed with this type of adjustment disorder exhibit both depression and anxiety. Symptoms of “Adjustment Disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood” include:-


  • Feelings of sadness and hopelessness

  • Crying

  • Being worried and overwhelmed

  • Feelings of nervousness and anxiousness

  • Difficulty in focusing & concentrating


Adjustment Disorder with disturbance of conduct 


 Individuals having this type of adjustment disorder usually manifest problematic behavior such as rash driving, picking fights, rebellious or impulsive actions, and behavior, etc. Teenagers who are diagnosed with “Adjustment Disorder with disturbance of conduct” may deliberately cause damage to any public or private property, and they may even indulge in the habit of stealing. They might also start bunking school. 


Adjustment Disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct 


 Individuals having this type of adjustment disorder experience anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues. 


Adjustment Disorder unspecified 


Individuals diagnosed with this type of adjustment disorder exhibit symptoms that are not associated with the other five types of adjustment disorder. The symptoms of “Adjustment Disorder unspecified” often involve physical symptoms such as:-


  • Indigestion

  • Insomnia

  • Fatigue

  • Body pain, etc.


The symptoms may also include problems related to family, friends, school, or work.


Causes of Adjustment Disorders


Various stressful events or situations can be the cause of an adjustment disorder. In adults, adjustment disorders can be caused due to various factors/reasons such as:-


  • Relationship problems or divorce

  • Death of a loved one

  • Poor health

  • Financial crisis

  • Shifting to a new place, etc.


Causes of adjustment disorders in children and teenagers involve:-


  • Problems related to family, friends, and school

  • Anxiousness over one’s sexuality


Diagnosis of Adjustment Disorders


In order to diagnose an adjustment disorder, the therapist or psychologist, or psychiatrist will take note of the individual’s mental health history, medical history, and social history. Diagnosis of adjustment disorders is mainly based on three significant elements:-


  • Major life stressors

  • An individual’s symptoms

  • And, how the life stressors and symptoms impact an individual’s ability to function


According to the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)”, an individual must meet the following criteria in order to be diagnosed with an adjustment disorder:-


  • Going through emotional, psychological, or behavioral symptoms within three months of an identifiable & specific stressor/stressors occurring in the individual’s life.

  • Experiencing more stress than normally would in response to a particularly stressful event or situation (i.e. a specific stressor), and/or dealing with stress that causes crucial issues in the individual’s relationships, at work, or at school. 

  • Symptoms are not due to the diagnosis of any other mental health disorder.


Treatment of Adjustment Disorders


If an individual is diagnosed with an adjustment disorder, then he/she can be treated with the help of therapy, medications, or a combination of both.


Therapy for Adjustment Disorder 


The main & primary treatment for an adjustment disorder involves therapy. Several kinds of therapies are used and applied in order to treat adjustment disorders, such as:-


  • Psychotherapy, which is also known as counseling or talk therapy

  • Family and group therapies

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), the main focus is on solving problems via modifying and changing irrational & unproductive thinking patterns and behaviors.

  • Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), is a short-term psychotherapy treatment.

  • Crisis intervention (emergency psychological care)

  • Support groups, which are specific to the cause of the adjustment disorder.


These therapies can be helpful in:


  • Maintaining your regular/normal level of functioning

  • Providing you an emotional support

  • Understanding the underlying cause of your adjustment disorder (i.e. the stressor), and why that particular stressor had a huge impact on you.

  • Learning & developing stress-management and coping skills in order to effectively deal with stressful events/situations.


Medication for Adjustment Disorder


If required, medications such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs may be prescribed to the patient in order to reduce the intensity of some of the symptoms of adjustment disorders, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, etc. In order to avoid any negative effects and withdrawal-like symptoms, the patient should not immediately stop taking the medications. He/she should consult his/her doctor first. 


Prevention of Adjustment Disorders


There is no assured way to prevent an adjustment disorder. However, developing stress-management and coping skills can be a lot helpful in dealing with your stressors. Being resilient is also a helpful way in order to manage stressful events/situations. Resilience means having the ability to overcome stressful situations (i.e. the stressors). One can develop and increase his/her resilience by:-


  • Sociability (developing a strong network of people who would emotionally support you).

  • Developing a positive mental attitude (looking for positivity even in tough situations).

  • Focusing on living a healthy life

  • Boosting your self-esteem


Psychologists as mental health care providers play a major role in understanding biological, behavioral, and social factors that influence mental health and physical wellbeing. Dr. (Prof) R K Suri, the Senior Clinical Psychologist at Psychowellness Center, is a trained professional clinical psychologist, having more than 36 years of experience in all kinds of mental health issues and related therapeutic interventions. 


Furthermore, TalkToAngel online mental health services under him put your needs first. They can help you with flexible appointments, personalized and customized intervention plans all at the tip of your fingers.


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