Adjustment Disorder Symptoms and Causes
Does having an Adjustment Disorder mean there’s something wrong with me?
Anyone can experience Adjustment Disorder, regardless of their background, family situation, or other circumstances. However, your risk of developing Adjustment Disorder may be higher if you had a stressful childhood, or if you’re facing several challenging life circumstances at once.
Moreover, people with other mental health conditions may be more likely to suffer from Adjustment Disorder after a stressful event.
What are the symptoms of Adjustment Disorder?
Here are the top 13 emotional and psychological symptoms of adjustment disorder:
- Feelings of sadness, which can include crying spells for no apparent reason
- Frustration or feelings of anger, even over small matters
- Feeling hopeless or emptiness
- Irritable or annoyed mood
- Loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities
- Loss of interest in, or conflict with, family and friends
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Fixation on past failures or exaggerated self-blame or self-criticism
- Extreme sensitivity to rejection or failure, and the need for excessive reassurance
- Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions and remembering things
- Ongoing sense that life and the future are grim and bleak
- Suicide ideation: frequent thoughts of death, dying or suicide
What kinds of experiences might cause Adjustment Disorder?
Adjustment Disorder treatment might be necessary after a single stressful event. But it can also be helpful to address the effects of chronic stress. Some of the most common triggers for Adjustment Disorder include the following:
- Relationship problems
- A devastating breakup
- Diagnosis with a disabling or life-threatening medical condition
- Exposure to crime or violence
- Natural disasters
- Stressors associated with developmental markers, such as leaving home for college
- Death of a loved one
- Losing a job
- Problems at school or at work
- Being the victim of an assault.
There are sometimes physical symptoms associated with Adjustment Disorder, including the following:
- Muscle twitches or trembling
- Exhaustion and fatigue
- Lack of appetite
- Body aches or pain
- Stomach problems, such as indigestion.
Diagnosis and Adjustment Disorder Treatment
How can a mental health professional tell if I have Adjustment Disorder?
The first step in getting Adjustment Disorder treatment is a comprehensive assessment. This screening will include a physical exam and lab tests to rule out any physiological issues that might be contributing to your symptoms. In addition, a doctor or psychologist will conduct an in-depth interview about your thoughts, feelings, history, and behaviors to determine whether you are suffering from Adjustment Disorder.
If you have had adjustment disorder symptoms for less than six months, you may be diagnosed with acute Adjustment Disorder. If symptoms have continued for longer than six months, the issue may be persistent Adjustment Disorder.
According to the latest Adjustment Disorder DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) update, there are specific Adjustment Disorder criteria that help determine a diagnosis:
- Symptoms start within three months after the stressful event.
- The event created more distress than would be expected, or is causing significant difficulty functioning at school, at work, or in relationships.
- The symptoms start improving within six months after the stressful event is over or the stressor is removed—unless the stress is chronic and has ongoing consequences.
Types of Adjustment Disorder
- Individual therapy to uncover and heal the underlying trauma or distress associated with the stressful event or circumstances
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help reframe thinking around anxiety or depression triggers and symptoms
- Family therapy to rebuild trust within the family system, so parents and siblings can be part of the recovery process
- Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to build coping skills that can redefine how one talks about or copes with their adjustment disorder
- Group therapy and peer-support groups to improve interpersonal skills and lessen the sense of isolation that can come with an Adjustment Disorder diagnosis
- Experiential modalities that provide nonverbal ways to express and process emotions
- Relaxation techniques, such as yoga and visualization, as healthy coping tools to help patients deal with stress.
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Care at Newport Institute
“Newport Institute creates a compassionate and caring environment. From the moment a patient walks through the front door of a Newport Institute location, our goal is for them to feel seen and loved. Utilizing evidence-based practices, we provide an environment where teens and young adults can safely address their unresolved trauma and learn to authentically connect with others.
Our team goes above and beyond to support clients in making shifts happen. They are dedicated to doing whatever it takes for the success of each individual.
Barbara Nosal, PhD, LMFT, LADC
Newport Institute Chief Clinical Officer
Adjustment Disorder treatment may include any or all of these scientifically validated therapeutic modalities:
Nonverbal, body-based approaches support healing from the depression and/or anxiety associated with Adjustment Disorder.
- Yoga and Movement
- Music Therapy
- Adventure Therapy
- Art Therapy
- Nature Therapy
As specialists in our field, we take into account every aspect of a young adult—their physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual health, not just psychological. Young people can make the most meaningful and long-lasting changes when they look at a full picture of their lives and figure out which aspects are helping them thrive and supporting the meaningful life they want to be living, and which are not.
Jennifer Dragonette, PsyD
Newport Clinical Services Instructor
Our experts at Newport Institute work collaboratively to build effective Adjustment Disorder treatment plans based on each patient’s unique needs. As a result, we guide young adults to successful and sustainable recovery.
Marks of Quality Care
Our innovative approach to mental healthcare earns accolades from press around the world, but it is our dedication to our client success that has helped us achieve accreditation from The Joint Commission, exceed licensing standards of care, and nurture affiliations with the following: