Adjustment Disorder



When something happens to disrupt your life in a major

way, it’s not unusual to experience some pretty distressing

and uncomfortable feelings.  These can be so intense for a

time that it feels like you’re cracking up and that you’ll

never get your life back in order.

By far the most common feelings we’re likely to have at

these times are anxiety and depression.  Sometimes it’s one;

sometimes the other; often both at once.  In some cases,

behavior and even physical health are affected.

Adjustment disorder is the most common diagnostic

category seen in most therapist’s offices.  When stress and

distress are seen to be linked to certain events or

conditions occurring in one’s life and there is no

pre-existing mental illness, adjustment disorder is the

appropriate label.

It is not necessary that the stressor event be of a

magnitude that would cause almost anyone to have trouble

adjusting.  When the stressor is very severe, the resulting

syndrome is called post-traumatic stress disorder.  This

condition can continue far beyond the removal of the

stressful stimulus.

By contrast, with garden-variety adjustment disorders,

there is usually a rapid resolution to pre-stress levels of

psychological functioning once the stressor is removed.  It

is certainly true, however, that different individuals adjust

at different rates and that people vary widely in their

vulnerability to adjustment disorder, depending on many

factors including temperament and past experiences under


The treatment for adjustment disorder is pretty

straight-forward:  Removal of the stressor by changing life

circumstances or accommodation to it if change is not

possible or desirable.  Medication can sometimes help with

anxiety and depression that are beyond toleration.

Supportive, decision-oriented therapy can help whether change

or accommodation is required.



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