Adjustment Disorder: What It Is and How to Cope with It

Adjustment Disorder: What It Is and How to Cope with It

Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult and painful experiences in life. It can trigger a range of emotions, such as sadness, anger, guilt, shock, and disbelief. While these feelings are normal and expected, sometimes they can become overwhelming and interfere with your daily functioning. This can lead to a condition called adjustment disorder.

Adjustment disorder is a mental health disorder that occurs when a person has particular difficulty coping with a stressful life event, such as the death of a loved one. It can cause emotional and behavioural symptoms that are out of proportion to the severity of the situation. These symptoms usually start within three months of the event and last up to six months after the event. Adjustment disorder is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw. It is a common and treatable condition that affects people of all ages and backgrounds. It is estimated that up to 20% of people who seek mental health services suffer from adjustment disorder.

There are six types of adjustment disorders, depending on the predominant symptoms:

  • Adjustment disorder with depressed mood: This type is characterised by feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and low self-esteem. You may also lose interest in activities you used to enjoy, have trouble sleeping or eating, or have thoughts of suicide.
  • Adjustment disorder with anxiety: This type is characterised by feelings of nervousness, worry, and fear. You may also have difficulty concentrating, feel restless or irritable, or experience panic attacks.
  • Adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood: This type is characterised by a combination of symptoms from both anxiety and depression.
  • Adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct: This type is characterised by behavioural problems, such as acting out, breaking rules, being aggressive or violent, or engaging in risky or illegal activities.
  • Adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct: This type is characterised by a combination of emotional and behavioural symptoms from any of the above types.
  • Adjustment disorder unspecified: This type is characterised by any other symptoms that do not fit into any of the above types, such as physical complaints, social withdrawal, or work or school problems.

The best way to prevent adjustment disorder is to seek support and help when you are going through a stressful life event. Talking to someone you trust, such as a friend, family member, counsellor, or therapist, can help you express your feelings and cope with your situation. You can also try to maintain a healthy lifestyle by getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising regularly, and avoiding alcohol and drugs.

If you think you have adjustment disorder, you should seek professional help as soon as possible. A mental health professional can diagnose your condition and provide you with appropriate treatment options. These may include counselling that helps you understand your emotions and behaviours, identify and change negative thoughts and beliefs, learn coping skills and strategies, and improve your self-esteem and confidence. In some cases medication may be prescribed to help you manage your symptoms, such as antidepressants for depression or anxiety disorders or mood stabilisers for bipolar disorder. You should always follow your doctor’s instructions and report any side effects or concerns. Joining support groups where you can talk to people who share similar experiences and challenges, could be valuable for mutual emotional support and practical advice.

Adjustment disorder can be a challenging condition to deal with, but it does not have to define you or your life. With proper care and support, you can overcome it and move forward with your life.

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