How to Recognize Adjustment Disorder
Change is an unavoidable part of life. At some point, everyone will have to deal with major life changes like switching careers, ending relationships, or having children. While change can be stressful, most of the time it doesn’t cause lasting psychological damage. Sometimes, though, people have a harder time than usual adjusting to change. Adjustment disorder occurs when a big life change impacts a person’s emotional health and ability to function. Depression, anxiety, and reckless behavior can all be symptoms of adjustment disorder. Learn to spot the signs of adjustment disorder in yourself or a loved one by reading up on the condition, familiarizing yourself with the symptoms, and learning to tell the difference between adjustment disorder and other conditions.
Understanding Adjustment Disorder
Learn about adjustment disorder.Adjustment disorder is a pattern of emotional or behavioral disturbance that occurs after a stressful event. Someone with adjustment disorder may experience depressive symptoms and anxiety. They may also have difficulty functioning in their career or personal life.
- While it’s normal to have some emotional difficulties or problems adjusting after a stressful event, people with adjustment disorder react significantly more strongly to these events than most others would.
- To diagnose adjustment disorder over normal stress, there are some symptoms to lookout for. Symptoms of adjustment disorder include anxiety, poor work or school performance, relationship problems, sadness, thoughts of suicide, excessive worrying, and trouble sleeping.
Know the types of situations that can cause adjustment disorder.Almost any major life change can trigger the onset of adjustment disorder. A few common causes include divorce, relocating to an unfamiliar area, losing a job, or having a baby.
- Adjustment disorder can be triggered by both positive and negative events.
- Emotional problems following the death of a loved one are typically classified as bereavement instead of adjustment disorder.
Be aware that anyone can have adjustment disorder.Adjustment disorder affects both men and women. Adults and children from all backgrounds and cultures may experience adjustment disorder at some point in life.
- Young people and people living in stressful situations, such as illness or abuse, may be at increased risk for developing the disorder.
Know that the prognosis for adjustment disorder is good.Most of the time, adjustment disorder goes away by itself within six months. The majority of people with the disorder adapt to their new circumstances and become better able to cope with the demands of their life.
- Even though adjustment disorder typically goes away by itself, it’s still a good idea for someone with the condition to seek counseling. Counseling can speed up the recovery process and help people learn new ways to cope with stress.
- Less than six months is called Acute Adjustment Disorder, while more than six months of the condition is referred to as Chronic Adjustment Disorder.
Identifying the Symptoms
Look for symptoms that resemble those of depression.Someone with adjustment disorder may seem to be in a funk constantly. Adjustment disorder can cause low mood, irritability, frequent crying spells, and loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable.
- Adjustment disorder is sometimes called “situational depression.” Unlike major depression, situational depression is caused by life events and usually goes away after the stressor is removed or the person adapts to their new circumstances.
Look for signs of anxiety.Adjustment disorder is a stress-based condition, so it produces many of the same symptoms as anxiety disorders including nervousness, jitteriness, and hopelessness. Someone who develops high levels of anxiety or often seems tense or on edge after experiencing a stressful event may be suffering from adjustment disorder.
Be alert for signs of social withdrawal.One warning sign for adjustment disorder is spending less time with friends and family. Someone with adjustment disorder may have a hard time meeting social responsibilities, or they may simply lose interest in spending time with others.
- Missing work, school, or other appointments can also be an indicator of adjustment disorder.
Notice uncharacteristic behaviors.Some people with adjustment disorder start acting inappropriately or without regard for others. Fighting, vandalizing property, driving carelessly, and other reckless behavior may be signs of adjustment disorder, especially if the person has never acted that way before.
- Children with adjustment disorder may be more likely than adults are to get into fights or otherwise act out inappropriately.
Pay attention to physical symptoms.Like many other mental health disorders, adjustment disorder can cause physical aches and pains. Heart palpitations, headaches, digestive problems, and sleep problems can all be linked to the condition.
Consider the time frame of adjustment disorder.Adjustment disorder usually develops within three months following a stressful event. Most of the time, the condition goes away within six months of the event. If symptoms persist longer than six months, consider whether a different condition could be to blame.
- Major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder can both be mistaken for adjustment disorder.
Distinguishing Between Adjustment Disorder and Other Conditions
Understand the difference between adjustment disorder and PTSD.Adjustment disorder and PTSD both develop in response to stressful events. However, adjustment disorder can be caused by any type of stressful event, while PTSD develops in response to life-threatening situations. Adjustment disorder typically does not cause flashbacks, while PTSD does. PTSD also does not go away by itself.
Distinguish between adjustment disorder and anxiety.Many people with adjustment disorder feel anxious and tense. To tell the difference, consider whether the anxiety has been present for a long time, or whether it has developed recently in response to a certain stimulus. Anxiety that can be traced back to a particular event is probably a symptom of adjustment disorder.
Video: What is Adjustment Disorder? (Mental Health Guru)
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