ADJUSTMENT DISORDER

WHAT IS ADJUSTMENT DISORDER?

An adjustment disorder can happen following a life event, such as divorce, bereavement, illness, work stress or any major life event that can cause stress.

When these ‘stressors’ occur, it is normal to go through a period of adjustment. Most of the time, people adjust to these changes within a few months. For some people, it can cause on-going distress and begin to cause emotional and behavioural disturbances.

Adjustment disorder is a short-term disorder that can be diagnosed if symptoms occur within three months of an identifiable stressor. It rarely lasts more than six months. However, it can lead to more significant mood and behavioural changes if not addressed.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF ADJUSTMENT DISORDER?

Symptoms vary between individuals, but they usually include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Sadness
  • Worry or anxiety
  • Withdrawal and social isolation from people and social activities
  • Change in appetite; either loss of appetite or overeating
  • Problems sleeping
  • Feeling tired and having no energy
  • Increase in the use of alcohol or drugs to manage symptoms
  • Headaches or stomach aches

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF ADJUSTMENT DISORDER?

  • Significant changes or stressors in life are the primary cause of adjustment disorder. However, it does not become a persistent issue for everyone who experiences changes or stress; everyone responds differently to similar situations, and certain factors influence this response:
  • Genetics may predispose an individual to react in a certain way.
  • Other mental health problems may increase a person’s chance of developing adjustment disorder.
  • Lots of changes or stressors occurring at the same time.
  • Experiencing a significant amount of stress during childhood.

HOW COMMON IS ADJUSTMENT DISORDER?

Adjustment disorder affects 1% of the general population. However, this percentage increases when studying groups such as those who have experienced a traumatic event.

HOW DO I MANAGE ADJUSTMENT DISORDER?

  • Talk to someone you trust about what you are going through. This will help you develop a support network and provide someone to look out for you.
  • Get involved in activities that boost your mood, such as exercise, socialising or listening to music, as long as the activity is not harmful to yourself.
  • Avoid using drugs or alcohol to manage your symptoms; they may provide a short term relief but will not help in the long term.
  • Focus on getting enough sleep; 7-9 hours of sleep will help to boost your energy levels and mood. Practice a night routine to help you settle and reduce your caffeine intake to help you sleep.
  • Although these strategies may help you, they may not be enough to help you fully recover. Therapy may be more suitable at helping you make a full recovery.

METHODS OF TREATMENT FOR ADJUSTMENT DISORDER?

WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF TREATMENT?

  • Reduce the symptoms that are lowering your mood.
  • Provide you with coping skills for the issues you are dealing with now and for any future events that may cause stress.
  • Help you to understand the underlying causes of adjustment disorder, and it has impacted you in this way.
  • With a better understating of yourself, you are more equipped to deal with any future issues you may be faced with.

WHERE DO I GO FOR HELP?

Arrange an appointment with the GP. They will discuss the issues you are dealing with and point you towards services with the NHS that can support you.

There are mental health charities out there that may also be able to help you. Rethink Mental Illness provides a helpline to those dealing with mental health problems. SANE provides text support and offers a peer support forum. Cruse Bereavement Care supports those struggling with bereavement through a helpline.

HOW CAN SELECT PSYCHOLOGY HELP WITH ADJUSTMENT DISORDER?

Select Psychology offers a wide of therapies to address adjustment disorder and gives you the tools to cope and understand your emotions. We are a private mental health service with highly trained therapists and no waiting lists. 

This is how therapy would work:

Step 1 – Get in touch:  The first step is recognising you have an issue and seeking help –  Book a free telephone consultation and start the process by providing a space and time to share your needs with us.

Step 2 – Telephone Consultation: You will be heard and understood through a confidential phone conversation. Often called the ‘triage’ this is where you can share more about your needs and we can advise on therapy pathways and provide initial guidance where possible. 

Step 3 – Appointment Offer: We will match your needs with the best fit practitioner for your therapy pathway and offer you an appointment within two weeks. 

Step 4 – Initial Assessment: Before you begin a course of therapy, your therapist will need to conduct an assessment in order agree a course of therapy with you that will best help you and address your goals. This is still part of the therapeutic process and will provide you with a better understanding of your difficulties and how you may start to approach them.

Step 5 – Your Therapy: Following on from your assessment, you will move onto therapy. Appointments are 50 minutes – these can be anything from weekly to monthly, depending on your individual circumstances. The number of sessions required to feel better will depend on your needs and therapy plan, this can range between 8-16 sessions, but in general more time is needed to address more complex issues.

Step 6 – Feeling Better: As you start to improve, you can agree on changes to the frequency of sessions as required. Ultimately, there will be a time when both you and your therapist agree that you no longer need to continue in active therapy.

FAQ

1. Does adjustment disorder go away?

With the appropriate treatment, you can usually recover from adjustment disorder quickly. It is important that you get the help required because symptoms can persist over time.

2. Is adjustment disorder the same as PTSD?

They are both grouped as trauma and stress-related disorders. The main difference is adjustment disorder involves a stressful event or a change in the environment, whereas, a traumatic event triggers PTSD.

3. How can I help my child with adjustment disorder?

Encourage them to talk about how they are feeling and be supportive and open with them. Professional help may also give them the support they need and help them make a full recovery.

4. How quickly does adjustment disorder develop?

It develops within three months of a life change or stressor. However, symptoms develop at different rates and will vary between individuals.

5. How severe is adjustment disorder?

Severity includes both intensity and persistence. Both of these will vary between individuals. Both intense and persistent symptoms can have an impact on a person’s overall wellbeing. Therefore, it is essential to get help if you feel the symptoms are getting severe.

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