Adjustment disorders are responses to stress. They are characterized by excessive emotional or behavioral responses to an identifiable, highly stressful event, situation, or life change. There are six subcategories of adjustment disorders, each with different symptoms and signs that can vary from person to person. While anyone can develop an adjustment disorder, children and adolescents are more likely to be diagnosed than adults.
Stressful or unexpected events such as relationship problems, work or school difficulties, or the death of loved ones can cause higher than ‘normal; levels of stress. Some people can adjust to these changes after a few months. However, suppose you or you or your child continue to experience extreme stress levels and difficulty coping months after a significant stressor. In that case, you may wish to consult a mental health professional to determine if you have an adjustment disorder.
Symptoms of Adjustment Disorders
Adjustment disorders are generally short-term, with symptoms appearing within three months of a stressful event and rarely lasting longer than six months.
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5), common symptoms of adjustment disorders include:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or not enjoying things you used to enjoy
- Crying frequently
- Feeling worried, nervous, anxious, jittery, or stressed out
- Changes in sleep and appetite
- Inability to concentrate
- Feeling easily overwhelmed
- Difficulties functioning in daily activities
- Withdrawing from social support systems
- Changes in behavior/acting out (more commonly seen in children)
It’s important to note that adjustment disorders may present with symptoms similar to those seen in other mental health disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depressive disorder (MDD), but they are very different. Therefore, if you believe you have an adjustment disorder, we recommend seeking an evaluation by a psychiatrist to understand your condition and symptoms better.
Treatment for Adjustment Disorders
At Talkiatry, we determine the treatment of adjustment disorders considering the patient’s age, the severity of symptoms, the precipitating event, and the condition’s specific cause. Adjustment disorders are primarily treated with psychotherapy, although medication may also be prescribed to alleviate symptoms in some cases.
Talkiatry’s psychiatric team believes that psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is the most effective treatment for adjustment disorders. More specifically, they may recommend interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), a short-term psychotherapy treatment, or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which aims to change or reframe unproductive thinking and behavior. In both forms of psychotherapy, our psychiatrists encourage patients to express their emotions in a supportive environment and constructive manner and help them understand that a typical stress reaction has become out of control but is still within their power to control. In addition, patients learn coping skills to manage future stressful situations in a healthier manner.
Our psychiatrists do not typically recommend medication to treat adjustment disorders. However, they may prescribe medication to treat symptoms associated with adjustment disorders, such as insomnia, depression, and anxiety. Recommended medications might include SSRIs, SNRIs, sleep aids, or short-term anti-anxiety medication.
Adjustment disorders are typically short-term and may only require a few sessions for the symptoms to be fully managed. However, treatment can also prove to be a long-term process, depending on the individual.
Take the next step with Talkiatry
Talkiatry, an outpatient mental health practice, can provide diagnosis and treatment plans for managing adjustment disorder symptoms, including psychotherapy and medication.
Our affordable, in-network psychiatric care model is tailored to meet all your individual needs. In addition, we offer flexible telemedicine and in-office appointment options to match our therapeutic and modern approach to psychiatric care.
If you believe you are suffering from an adjustment disorder, please don’t hesitate to seek treatment from a medical professional. Start the process by taking our free and easy assessment to receive a preliminary diagnosis and better understand your symptoms. You will then be matched with one of our psychiatrists who specializes in adjustment disorders, who will be able to provide you with a customized treatment plan for managing your symptoms.