If you’re going through a life-changing event such as losing your job, getting divorced or experiencing the death of a family member, you may find yourself overwhelmed by the stress and strain of your situation. In some cases, the impact on your mental health may be severe enough to qualify you for a diagnosis of a condition called an adjustment disorder. Fortunately, with help you can cope with the effects of this condition and regain a sense of well-being.
Adjustment Disorder Essentials
The American Psychiatric Association includes adjustment disorders in a larger mental health category called trauma- and stressor-related disorders. There are five primary types of these conditions:
- Adjustment disorder with anxiety
- Adjustment disorder with depressed mood
- Adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood
- Adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct, and
- Adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct
A sixth condition, called adjustment disorder unspecified, includes cases with symptoms that don’t fall under any of the five main disorders.
No one really knows why some people develop stress reactions strong enough to lead to an adjustment disorder. However, several factors may play a role, including:
- Your genetic makeup
- Specific incidents or experiences in your personal history
- The specific chemical balance inside your brain, and
- Your unique personality traits
Coping With the Effects
How can you cope with the effects of adjustment disorder with anxiety, adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood or another adjustment disorder? Many people improve with the help of a form of psychotherapy called cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT. In CBT, you learn how to identify emotions, thoughts and behaviors that keep your symptoms active or make them worse. You also learn how to develop new ways of thinking and reacting that diminish your symptoms and lessen the severity of your condition. Several other forms of therapy may also help you cope. For example, you might benefit from therapy sessions that include members of your family, or from extended one-on-one therapy that continues after you complete a series of CBT sessions. You might also benefit from participation in a self-help group that includes other people affected by an adjustment disorder.
Doctors sometimes use anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications to treat cases of adjustment disorder. However, even when medications are employed, psychotherapy forms the core of treatment. With help, most people recover in half a year or less, as long as the situation that triggered the disorder can be resolved or avoided, and is not ongoing.
U.S. National Library of Medicine – MedlinePlus: Adjustment Disorder https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000932.htm
Mayo Clinic: Adjustment Disorders