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:-
Adjustment Disorder with depressed mood
Adjustment Disorder with anxiety
Adjustment Disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood
Adjustment Disorder with disturbance of conduct
Adjustment Disorder with disturbance of emotions and conduct both
Adjustment Disorder unspecified
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.
Crying, suicidal thoughts
Lack of confidence, loss of self-esteem
Attention issues, lack of focus & concentration
Withdrawn attitude, unsociability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
Disturbed sleep pattern, Insomnia
Muscles twitches, shaking or trembling
There are six types of adjustment disorders, each having distinct symptoms:-
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.
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.
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
Being worried and overwhelmed
Feelings of nervousness and anxiousness
Difficulty in focusing & concentrating
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.
Individuals having this type of adjustment disorder experience anxiety, depression, and behavioral issues.
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:-
Body pain, etc.
The symptoms may also include problems related to family, friends, school, or work.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.