Adjustment disorder is a group of symptoms, such as stress, feeling sad or hopeless, and physical symptoms that can occur after you go through a stressful life event.
An adjustment disorder is a type of stress-related mental illness. You may feel anxious or depressed, or even have thoughts of suicide. Your normal daily routines may feel overwhelming. Or you may make reckless decisions. In essence, you have a hard time adjusting to change in your life, and it has serious consequences.
Adjustment disorders symptoms vary from person to person. The symptoms you have may be different from those of someone else with an adjustment disorder. But for everyone, symptoms of an adjustment disorder begin within three months of a stressful event in your life.
Emotional symptoms of adjustment disorders
Signs and symptoms of adjustment disorder may affect how you feel and think about yourself or life, including:
- Lack of enjoyment
- Crying spells
- Anxiety, which may include separation anxiety
- Trouble sleeping
Behavioral symptoms of adjustment disorders
Signs and symptoms of adjustment disorder may affect your actions or behavior, such as:
- Reckless driving
- Ignoring bills
- Avoiding family or friends
- Performing poorly in school or at work
- Skipping school
- Vandalizing property
Many different events may trigger symptoms of an adjustment disorder. Whatever the trigger is, the event may become too much for you. Stressors for people of any age include:
- Death of a loved one
- Divorce or problems with a relationship
- General life changes
- Illness or other health issues in yourself or a loved one
- Moving to a different home or a different city
- Unexpected catastrophes
- Worries about money Triggers of stress in teenagers and young adults may include:
- Family problems or conflict
- School problems
- Sexuality issues
Most people find treatment of adjustment disorder helpful, and they often need only brief treatment. Others may benefit from longer treatment. There are two main types of treatment for adjustment disorder — psychotherapy and medications.
The main treatment for adjustment disorders is psychotherapy, also called counseling or talk therapy. You may attend individual therapy, group therapy or family therapy. Therapy can provide emotional support and help you get back to your normal routine. It can also help you learn why the stressful event affected you so much. As you understand more about this connection, you can learn healthy coping skills to help you deal with other stressful events that may arise.
In some cases, medications may help, too. Medications can help with such symptoms as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are the medications most often used to treat adjustment disorders. As with therapy, you may need medications only for a few months, but don't stop taking any medication without talking with your doctor first. If stopped suddenly, some medications, such as certain antidepressants, may cause withdrawal symptoms.