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Adjustment disorders are a group of conditions that can occur when you have difficulty coping with a stressful life event. These can include the death of a loved one, relationship issues, or being fired from work. While everyone encounters stress, some people have trouble handling certain stressors.
The inability to adjust to the stressful event can cause one or more severe psychological symptoms and sometimes even physical symptoms. There are six types of adjustment disorders. Each type is associated with distinct symptoms and signs. Adjustment disorders can affect both adults and children.
Adjustment disorders are treated with therapy, medication, or a combination of both. With help, you can usually recover from an adjustment disorder quickly. The disorder typically doesn’t last more than six months, unless the stressor persists.
The mental and physical symptoms associated with adjustment disorder usually occur during or immediately after you experience a stressful event. While the disorder lasts no longer than six months, your symptoms may continue if the stressor isn’t removed. Some people have just one symptom. Others may experience many symptoms.
The mental symptoms of adjustment disorders can include:
There is one type of adjustment disorder that is associated with physical symptoms as well as psychological ones. These physical symptoms can include:
There are six different types of adjustment disorders. Each type is associated with different symptoms:
People diagnosed with this type of adjustment disorder tend to experience feelings of sadness and hopelessness. It’s also associated with crying. You may also find that you no longer enjoy activities that you formerly enjoyed.
Symptoms associated with adjustment disorder with anxiety include feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and worried. People with this disorder may also have problems with concentration and memory. For children, this diagnosis is usually associated with separation anxiety from parents and loved ones.
People with this kind of adjustment disorder experience both depression and anxiety.
Symptoms of this type of adjustment disorder mainly involve behavioral issues like driving recklessly or starting fights. Teens with this disorder may steal or vandalize property. They might also start missing school.
Symptoms linked to this type of adjustment disorder include depression, anxiety, and behavioral problems.
Those diagnosed with adjustment disorder unspecified have symptoms that aren’t associated with the other types of adjustment disorder. These often include physical symptoms or problems with friends, family, work, or school.
A variety of stressful events can cause an adjustment disorder. Some common causes in adults include:
Typical causes in children and teenagers include:
Anyone can develop an adjustment disorder. There isn’t any way to tell who out of a group of people experiencing the same stressor will develop an adjustment disorder. Your social skills and methods for coping with other stressors may determine whether or not you develop an adjustment disorder.
In order to be diagnosed with an adjustment disorder, you must meet the following criteria:
If you are diagnosed with an adjustment disorder, you would probably benefit from treatment. You may require only short-term treatment or may need to be treated over an extended period of time. Adjustment disorder is typically treated with therapy, medications, or a combination of both.
Therapy is the primary treatment for an adjustment disorder. Your doctor or healthcare provider may recommend you see a mental health professional. You may be referred to a psychologist or mental health counselor. However, if your doctor thinks that your condition requires medication, they may refer you to a psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner.
Going to therapy can help you return to a regular level of functioning. Therapists offer you their emotional support and can help you understand the cause of your adjustment disorder. This together can help you develop skills to cope with future stressful situations.
There are several kinds of therapies used to treat adjustment disorders. These therapies include:
Some people with adjustment disorders also benefit from taking medications. Medications are used to lessen some of the symptoms of adjustment disorders, such as insomnia, depression, and anxiety. These medications include:
The outlook for recovering from an adjustment disorder is good if you are treated quickly and correctly. You should recover quickly. The disorder doesn’t usually last more than six months in most people.
It can be helpful to prepare for a stressful situation if you know you will need to confront it in advance. Thinking positively can help. You can also call your doctor or therapist to discuss how you can best manage especially stressful situations.
Written by: Erica Cirino
Medically reviewed on: Jan 29, 2016: Timothy J. Legg, PhD, PMHNP-BC
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