How do I move on? Understanding Adjustment Disorder
Dr Jozelle Miller
November 2, 2021
How do I move on? Understanding Adjustment Disorder

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. The symptoms occur because you are having a hard time coping. Your reaction is stronger than expected for the type of event that occurred. An adjustment disorder is a temporary condition caused by stress. It’s linked with psychological and sometimes physical symptoms that can interfere with your everyday life.

Causes 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 n Worries about money Triggers of stress in teenagers and young adults may include:
  • Family problems or conflict

n School problems n Sexuality issues There is no way to predict which people who are affected by the same stress are likely to develop adjustment disorder. Your social skills before the event and how you have learned to deal with stress in the past may play roles.

Generalized Symptoms: Symptoms of adjustment disorder are often severe enough to affect work or social life. They include:

  • Acting defiant or showing impulsive behaviour
  • Acting nervous or tense
  • Crying, feeling sad or hopeless, and possibly withdrawing from other people
  • Skipped heartbeats and other physical complaints
  •  Trembling or twitching To have adjustment disorder, you must have the following:
  •  The symptoms clearly come after a stressor, most often within three months
  •  The symptoms are more severe than would be expected n There do not appear to be other disorders involved
  • The symptoms are not part of normal grieving for the death of a loved one
  • Sometimes, symptoms can be severe and the person may have thoughts of suicide or make a suicide attempt.

The mental and physical symptoms associated with adjustment disorder usually occur during or immediately after you experience a stressful event. While the disorder lasts no longer than six months, your symptoms may continue if the stressor isn’t removed. Some people have just one symptom. Others may experience many symptoms.

The mental symptoms of adjustment disorders can include:

  • acting rebellious or impulsive
  • acting anxious
  • feeling sad, hopeless, or trapped
  •  crying
  • withdrawn attitude
  • lack of concentration
  • loss of self esteem
  • suicidal thoughts There is one type of adjustment disorder that is associated with physical symptoms as well as psychological ones.

These physical symptoms can include:

  • insomnia
  • muscle twitches or trembling
  • fatigue
  • body pain or soreness n indigestion

Types of Adjustment Disorders

There are six different types of adjustment disorders. Each type is associated with different symptoms:

1. Adjustment disorder with depressed mood People diagnosed with this type of adjustment disorder tend to experience feelings of sadness and hopelessness. It’s also associated with crying. You may also find that you no longer enjoy activities that you formerly enjoyed.

2. Adjustment disorder with anxiety Symptoms associated with adjustment disorder with anxiety include feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and worried. People with this disorder may also have problems with concentration and memory. For children, this diagnosis is usually associated with separation anxiety from parents and loved ones.

3. Adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood People with this kind of adjustment disorder experience both depression and anxiety.

4. Adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct Symptoms of this type of adjustment disorder mainly involve behavioral issues like driving recklessly or starting fights. Teens with this disorder may steal or vandalize property. They might also start missing school.

5. Adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct Symptoms linked to this type of adjustment disorder include depression, anxiety, and behavioral problems.

6. Adjustment disorder unspecified Those diagnosed with adjustment disorder unspecified have symptoms that aren’t associated with the other types of adjustment disorder. These often include physical symptoms or problems with friends, family, work, or school.

We will continue looking at Adjustment Disorder next week.