Adjustment Disorder

What is adjustment disorder? 

An adjustment disorder is an emotional or behavioral reaction to a stressful event or change in a person’s life. Individuals who have adjustment disorders experience more stress than would normally be expected in response to a stressful or unexpected event. This stress causes significant problems in relationships, work, school, and home life. Adults can experience adjustment disorders, but it is predominantly diagnosed in children, and occurs equally between  males and females.

What does adjustment disorder look like?

The reaction to a stressor will be excessive and interfere with the individual’s ability to function. This disorder affects how an individual feels and thinks about themself and the world and can affect their actions and behaviors. Symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad or hopeless
  • Frequent crying
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Difficulty functioning in daily activities
  • Withdrawing from social supports
  • Avoiding important things such as going to work or paying bills
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior

How does DSM define adjustment disorder?

The DSM-5 defines adjustment disorder as “the presence of emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to an identifiable stressor(s) occurring within 3 months of the onset of the stressor(s)” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

In addition to exposure to one or more stressors, other DSM-5 criteria for adjustment disorder must be present. One or both of these criteria exist:

  • Distress that is out of proportion with expected reactions to the stressor
  • Symptoms must be clinically significant—they cause marked distress and impairment in functioning

Further, these criteria must be present:

  • Distress and impairment are related to the stressor and are not an escalation of existing mental health disorders
  • The reaction isn’t part of normal behavior
  • Once the stressor is removed or the person has begun to adjust and cope, the symptoms must subside within six months.

How can therapy help adjustment disorder?

Adjustment disorder requires professional mental health care to assist in managing symptoms effectively. Medication is a treatment that is NOT at all helpful and can not teach an individual how to cope with stress. Cognitive behavioral therapy will incorporate problem-solving skills, communication techniques and stress management skills to improve the effects of the stressors.  

When should I call your office?

If you or your loved ones have concerns with adjustment disorder, you can work with a specialist. At Soma Therapy, we can help! Call 316-201-6047 or fill out our contact form to get help & learn more about adjustment disorder resources today. We also often provide referrals in-town if we cannot connect you with the right resources within Soma Therapy. 

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