Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment Disorder

Introduction to adjustment disorder

Adjustment disorder sets in when a person is unable to adjust to stressful events. An adjustment disorder can affect children as much as it can affect adults.

Adjustment disorders are usually events that affect your very existence such as the death of a friend or a loved one. It might also be associated with a change in the working or schooling environment. Heartbreaks seem to be one of the top reasons why young persons and even adults can develop an adjustment disorder.

Their symptoms could be psychological, physical, or a combination of the two. Anyone who has an adjustment disorder should expect to heal from it within a span of six months with adequate therapy and medications.

Six (6) types of adjustment disorders exist and they are described based on the symptoms. A quick consideration of the 6 types of adjustment disorders!

Symptoms of adjustment disorder

Adjustment disorder symptoms especially mental and physical symptoms are likely going to occur as soon as you experience any stressful event. The disorder itself can go on for about 6 months but its symptoms can outlive the disorder if the stressor isn’t eliminated. Symptoms vary from person to person. Common mentally-related symptoms are:

  • rebellious attitude
  • impulsive actions
  • sadness
  • hopelessness
  • suicidal thoughts
  • crying
  • withdrawal
  • anxiety
  • short attention span
  • low self-esteem

Physical symptoms that come with an adjustment disorder are:

6 types of adjustment disorder

Adjustment disorder with depressed mood

This category of people will experience sad and hopeless feelings. They will also have a tendency to cry. If they have certain activities that they used to derive pressure from, that feeling will no longer be there.

Adjustment disorder with anxiety

This type of adjustment disorder has anxiety as its typical symptom. Also, fretful feelings, poor memory and attention span are their ‘rewards’

When children have this type of adjustment disorder, they will feel withdrawn from their parents and siblings.

Adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood

Their two major symptoms are depression and anxiety.

Adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct

This adjustment disorder type comes with behavioral problems such as reckless driving, starting a fight etc. when a teenager has this condition, he will have the love for truancy, destroying property and even stealing.

Adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct

Anxiety,  depression, and behavioral problems are characteristic symptoms of this form of adjustment disorder.

Adjustment disorder unspecified

This category of adjustment disorder comes with symptoms that differ from the other types. They come with physical symptoms that include issues with family members, friends, family, colleagues at work, or even with school authorities.

Causes of adjustment disorder

Adults can develop an adjustment disorder from the following stressful situations:

  • death of a loved one
  • heartbreaks
  • divorce
  • the onset of menopause in women
  • major life changes
  • terminal illness suffered by a loved one
  • residential relocation
  • change in the working environment
  • sudden disasters
  • serious financial lack

Typical causes in children and teenagers include:

  • family issues
  • school issues
  • sexuality-related anxiety

Risk factors of adjustment disorder

Just about anybody can develop an adjustment disorder. Well, I’ve got good news for you! Your ability to manage human relationships and the challenges that spring forth thence will determine whether you will have one or not. So you’ve got to develop your social skills and stress managing ‘wings’. With these stress ‘wings’ you can fly away from stressors when they try to perch on you!

Diagnosis of adjustment disorder

Adjustment disorders have to meet certain criteria as outlined below before it can be diagnosed

  • You must have experienced psychological or behavioral symptoms in not less than 3 months from a particular stressor or stressors as the case may be.
  • You must have had more stress than would be termed ordinary as a response to a type of stressor. Or, it could be stress that instigates conflicts in relationships whether in the school, workplace. It could be a combination of these two criteria.
  • There must have been an improvement in symptoms not more than 6 months after the stressor(s) removal
  • There must be symptoms that are not related to any other condition.

Treatment for adjustment disorder

When you have received a diagnosis for an adjustment disorder, you will immediately be placed on the right plan of treatment.

How severe the disorder is will define whether you will be placed on a short-term or long-term treatment plan. Therapy, medications, or a combination of the two arethe typical approach to treating an adjustment disorder.


Therapy will be considered first in the treatment of any adjustment disorder. It is, therefore, a primary line of care. You will have to consult a health professional that specializes in mental health i.e. a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

You will need a psychiatrist if your condition requires medical intervention also. With therapy, your return to normal living is guaranteed. You are not only going to get medical help from your mental health doctor, but you will also receive solid emotional support that will make your recovery faster than ever imagined. You will also be helped to better understand the disorder: its causes and how you can handle future occurrences.

Consider these therapies for adjustment disorders:

  • Psychotherapy: In psychotherapy, you will be treated through counseling. It is also called talk therapy.
  • Emergency psychological intervention
  • family or group therapies
  • support groups: each group is specific as it relates to the cause of the disorder
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): Its focus is to change your perspectives about situations. Once your perspectives have been set right, your behaviors will be automatically set right.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT): It’s a form of psychotherapy but its duration is usually shorter than psychotherapy.


Medications for adjustment disorders as would be seen in this article have proven to be very effective in lessening the symptoms especially anxiety, insomnia, and depression. There are three categories of medications used for treating adjustment disorders. Let’s consider them and their examples.

Benzodiazepines: Examples are lorazepam (aka Ativan) and alprazolam (aka Xanax)

Nonbenzodiazepine anxiolytics: A very good example is gabapentin (aka Neurontin)

SSRIs: Examples are sertraline (aka Zoloft) or venlafaxine (aka Effexor XR)


Adjustment disorder has an outlook that is good and promising if promptly attended to. You will recover before 6 months elapse.

Prevention of adjustment disorder

There’s no guarantee that this condition can be prevented from developing. What you basically need is how to handle what comes as stressors. You should learn howto be resilient in facing stressors head on. You resilient capacity can be increasedthrough the following ways:

  • develop a network of supportive people
  • be optimistic and look for the good in every bad situation
  • live a healthy lifestyle
  • build your self-esteem

Life itself is full of demands that can eventually become stressors to you. When you have this mindset, you will be better prepared to confront these stressors as they come.

Learn not to take certain things seriously. Learn to always give your best. Plan your time. Maximize it. Be optimistic.

Rest when you ought to. Whenever you are overwhelmed with stressful conditions, talk to your doctor.

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