Adjustment Disorders

Adjustment Disorders are stress-related conditions that fairly common in the United States. Adjustment disorders present as a group of symptoms that make you feel stressed, hopeless or sad that often occur after you go through a stressful life event. Something as simple as a job change may cause these symptoms to occur. They’re also common after more significant life changes such as divorce or the death of a loved one. Symptoms can either be acute; lasting less than six months and usually subsiding once the stressor is removed or persistent, lasting long after a stressor is removed and causing chronic symptoms.

Any time a significant change happens in life, there’s an adjustment period that follows it. The length of time for that adjustment period usually is dependent on the severity of the change. Perhaps it takes a few days to get used to a new school, or a few weeks, or months where you’re stressed, sad, anxious, or confused after the death of a loved one. This adjustment period is natural and healthy. Once your status quo is disrupted, it takes time to find your “new normal.” However, if you don’t start to return to feeling like yourself after a few months, that’s where problems can arise. If you can’t cope or find your “new normal” after a few months and continue to feel overwhelmed, withdrawn, sad, or worried, you may have an adjustment disorder.

Adjustment disorders can happen to anyone and arise from any significant life change. However, people that have had significant stress in their childhoods, those with other mental illnesses or those that experience multiple stressors in a small amount of time are more susceptible to developing adjustment disorders. Adjustment disorders usually are diagnosed a few months after a life event takes place. At that point, suffers begin to understand that they’re having trouble coping with the change and seek help in order to learn ways to adjust to their new normal.

Adjustment disorders is a blanket term for six different types of disorders. Although they’re all related, each type has unique signs and symptoms. Adjustment disorders can be:

With depressed mood- Feeling sad, worried or consistently upset.
With anxiety- Feeling nervous, overwhelmed or being unable to concentrate
With mixed anxiety and depressed mood – A combination of anxiety and depression symptoms
With disturbance of conduct- Issues with anger, reckless driving, or vandalism.
With mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct – A combination of depression and anxiety and various behavioral problems.
Unspecified- Various symptoms don’t fit the other types of adjustment disorders, but often include physical problems or interpersonal problems.

Having an adjustment disorder is a common occurrence that you don’t have to feel ashamed about. Don’t feel like you have to “tough it out.” Treatment for adjustment disorders is usually brief and effective. Getting treatment sooner rather than later is very important. If you’re already experiencing adjustment disorder and another stressful life event happens, it may be enough to cause you depression, anxiety, foster substance abuse or even provoke suicidal thoughts. Ready to get treatment for your adjustment disorder? Contact your therapist today.

Anna M. Hickey, Licensed Professional Counselor practices Counseling in Macomb Michigan. Anna’s practice, Life Transitions specializes in Counseling and Divorce Mediation.