What Are Adjustment Disorders?
Adjustment disorders are emotional conditions in which someone experiences an outsized reaction to a change in life or significant stressor. While anyone may find these stressors difficult, people with adjustment disorders experience extreme emotional reactions that last longer than others would typically expect.
The DSM-V defines six different types of adjustment disorder:
- Adjustment disorder with depressed mood
- Adjustment disorder with anxiety
- Adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood
- Adjustment disorder with conduct disturbance
- Adjustment disorder with mixed conduct and emotional disturbance.
- Adjustment disorder, unspecified
Diagnosing an adjustment disorder can only be done by a professional. If you suspect you may have an adjustment disorder, contact our offices to explore your therapeutic options.
Signs and Symptoms of Adjustment Disorders
The most common sign of an adjustment disorder is an outsized reaction to a trauma that continues to interfere with regular life.
Signs of adjustment disorders include:
- Suicidal ideation
- Feeling hopeless
- Detaching from favorite pastimes
- High anxiety or stress
- Emotional apathy
- Faulty concentration
- Crying episodes
- Unhealthy sleep patterns
Given that symptoms overlap with those in other mental health disorders, it is important that a trained professional diagnoses an adjustment disorder.
Diagnosis of an adjustment disorder requires:
- Symptoms appearing fewer than 3 months after the trauma
- Outsized reactions to triggers
- Negative ideation that reduces one’s quality of life
- No pre-existing condition that may have similar symptoms
What Causes Adjustment Disorders?
The trauma that causes an adjustment disorder can take one of many forms. It can even be something many consider positive, such as leaving for college for the first time. Some triggers are chronic and ongoing, as in an abusive relationship, while in other scenarios a combination of events can cause the disorder.
How Are Adjustment Disorders Treated?
Interventions that work effectively with adjustment disorders include therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Patients may also need some combination of those.
Therapy sessions for adjustment disorder can be individual, group, or family sessions and can include:
- Talk therapy
- Building coping mechanisms
- Identifying negative patterns
- Identifying triggers
Sometimes, medication is the answer for a patient with adjustment disorders. Medications that are effective include antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.
Lifestyle changes that patients can develop to help with this disorder include:
- Fomenting bonds with friends and loved ones
- Focusing on the positive
- Avoiding sublimation
- Addressing problems
- Documenting successes
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Eating a healthy diet
- Getting enough exercise
Find Help for Adjustment Disorders at LifeStance Health
LifeStance Health offers a wide variety of mental health services that can help people with adjustment disorders. Whether you decide that therapy, medication, or a combination of treatments is right for you, we’re here to help. Our providers can work together to create a personalized, comprehensive care plan.
We offer both in-person and online treatment for adjustment disorders. Being unable to come to the office in-person should never stop you from getting high-quality care. Our therapists, psychiatrists, and nurse practitioners offer virtual appointments for your convenience.
Adjustment Disorders FAQs
Grief is a normal and healthy part of healing after a trauma. Those with an adjustment disorder, however, have an extreme and ongoing response to a trauma that can last long after the inciting incident.
The DSM-V defines criteria for distinguishing between normal, healthy grief and an adjustment disorder. If a patient has some but not all of the diagnostic criteria for the disorder, they may have a related disorder, such as PTSD. A trained mental health professional can help a patient figure this out through conscientious and compassionate work in the session.
Many disorders come in acute and chronic versions. With adjustment disorders, an acute case will last fewer than six months, while a chronic case lasts longer than six months. Additionally, once a trigger goes away in an acute case, the patient’s symptoms disappear. As a contract, chronic sufferers will still have symptoms after the triggers go away.