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Definition

What are adjustment disorders?

Adjustment disorders are stress-related conditions. You experience more stress than would normally be expected in response to a stressful or unexpected event, and the stress causes significant problems in your relationships, at work or at school.

Work problems, going away to school, an illness, death of a close family member or any number of life changes can cause stress. Most of the time, people adjust to such changes within a few months. But if you have an adjustment disorder, you continue to have emotional or behavioral reactions that can contribute to feeling anxious or depressed.

You don’t have to tough it out on your own, though. Treatment can be brief and it’s likely to help you regain your emotional footing.

How common are adjustment disorders?

Adjustment disorder is very common and can affect anyone, regardless of gender, age, race, or lifestyle. Although an adjustment disorder can occur at any age, it is more common at times in life when major transitions occur, such as adolescence, mid-life, and late-life. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of adjustment disorders?

The common symptoms of adjustment disorders are:

  • Acting rebellious or impulsive
  • Acting anxious
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or trapped
  • Crying
  • Withdrawn attitude
  • Lack of concentration
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts

There is one type of adjustment disorder that is associated with physical symptoms as well as psychological ones. These physical symptoms can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Muscle twitches or trembling
  • Fatigue
  • Body pain or soreness
  • Indigestion

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.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes adjustment disorders?

A variety of stressful events can cause an adjustment disorder. Some common causes in adults include:

  • Death of family member or friend
  • Relationship issues or divorce
  • Major life changes
  • Illness or health issue (in you or someone you’re close with)
  • Moving to a new house or place
  • Sudden disasters
  • Money troubles or fears

Typical causes in children and teenagers include:

  • Family fights or problems
  • Problems in school
  • Anxiety over sexuality

Risk factors

What increases my risk for adjustment disorders?

There are many risk factors for adjustment disorders, such as:

  • Stressful events. Stressful life events — both positive and negative — may put you at risk of developing an adjustment disorder. For example:
    • Divorce or marital problems
    • Relationship or interpersonal problems
    • Changes in situation, such as retirement, having a baby or going away to school
    • Adverse situations, such as losing a job, loss of a loved one or having financial issues
    • Problems in school or at work
    • Life-threatening experiences, such as physical assault, combat or natural disaster
    • Ongoing stressors, such as having a medical illness or living in a crime-ridden neighborhood
  • Your life experiences. Life experiences can impact how you cope with stress. For example, your risk of developing an adjustment disorder may be increased if you:
    • Experienced significant stress in childhood
    • Have other mental health problems
    • Have a number of difficult life circumstances happening at the same time

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How are adjustment disorders diagnosed?

In order to be diagnosed with an adjustment disorder, you must meet the following criteria:

  • Experiencing psychological or behavioral symptoms within three months of an identifiable stressor or stressors occurring in your life
  • Having more stress than would be ordinary in response to a specific stressor, or stress that causes issues with relationships, in school or at work, or experiencing both of these criteria
  • The improvement of symptoms within six months after the stressor or stressors are removed
  • Symptoms that are not the result of another diagnosis

How are adjustment disorders treated?

Psychotherapy (a type of counseling) is the most common treatment for adjustment disorder. Therapy helps the person understand how the stressor has affected his or her life. It also helps the person develop better coping skills. Support groups can also be helpful by allowing the person to discuss his or her concerns and feelings with people who are coping with the same stress. In some cases, medication may be used to help control anxiety symptoms or sleeping problems.

If you have symptoms of adjustment disorder, it is very important that you seek medical care. Major depression also could potentially develop in people who are vulnerable to mood disorders.  Plus, you may develop a substance abuse problem if you turn to alcohol or drugs to help you cope with stress and anxiety.

Most people with adjustment disorder recover completely. In fact, a person who is treated for adjustment disorder may learn new skills that actually allow him or her to function better than before the symptoms began.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage adjustment disorders?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with adjustment disorders:

  • Stay connected with healthy social supports, such as positive friends and loved ones.
  • Do something that gives you a sense of accomplishment, enjoyment and purpose every day.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle that includes good sleep, a healthy diet and regular physical activity.
  • Learn from past experiences about how you can improve your coping skills.
  • Remain hopeful about the future and strive for a positive attitude.
  • Recognize and develop your personal strengths.
  • Face your fears and accept challenges.
  • Make a plan to address problems when they occur, rather than avoid them.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: August 11, 2017 | Last Modified: August 11, 2017

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