Mental Disorders


Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment Disorder: Understanding Symptoms and Treatment

Facts About Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorder causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and irritability, often due to stressful events or major life changes. Therapy and certain medications can address these emotional and physical symptoms, including headaches, digestive issues, and muscle tension. Learn about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for adjustment disorder, and contact The Edge Treatment Center for guidance through life’s challenging transitions.

What Is Adjustment Disorder?

Adjustment disorder is a trauma disorder that arises when an individual's response to a stressful event surpasses what is typically considered reasonable. This excessive reaction can lead to significant emotional distress, and disrupt daily functioning as a result. AjD currently affects approximately 1% to 2% of the U.S.

AjD manifests in various ways, impacting emotions, thoughts, and behaviors uniquely for each person. While some individuals may experience overwhelming sadness or anxiety, others might exhibit irritability or difficulty concentrating. These diverse responses highlight the complexity of this condition and the need for tailored interventions.

Adjustment Disorder - Man having problems adjusting

Effects on Emotions, Thoughts, and Behaviors

  • Emotions: Adjustment disorder can trigger a range of intense emotions, such as sadness, anger, anxiety, or even numbness. Individuals may struggle to regulate their feelings, leading to mood swings and heightened sensitivity.

  • Thoughts: The condition often influences cognitive processes, causing individuals to experience persistent negative thoughts or intrusive worries. This cognitive distortion can exacerbate feelings of hopelessness and helplessness.

  • Behaviors: Adjusting behaviors in response to stress can vary widely among individuals. Some may withdraw socially, while others might engage in risky behaviors as a coping mechanism. Changes in sleep patterns, appetite, or productivity are common behavioral indicators of adjustment disorder.

Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorder presents a range of symptoms, primarily manifesting as psychological and emotional symptoms like stress, sadness, hopelessness, along with physical signs such as headaches and muscle tension. Here’s an overview of typical adjustment disorder symptoms:

Emotional Signs

Individuals with adjustment disorder may experience a range of emotional signs, including feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and irritability, often stemming from separation anxiety or other stressful events. These emotions can be overwhelming and challenging to cope with on a daily basis, especially in adolescents and children who may not have fully developed coping skills.

It is common for people with this disorder to lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, leading to a sense of detachment from their usual routines. The intensity and duration of these emotional signs can vary widely from person to person, depending on their unique circumstances and coping mechanisms.

Physical Symptoms

Adjustment disorder can manifest through various physical symptoms that are important to recognize. Some individuals may develop headaches, digestive issues, and muscle tension as a result of the stress they are experiencing. Chronic stress, if left unaddressed, can further exacerbate these physical symptoms and lead to fatigue and changes in appetite. It is crucial to understand that physical signs of adjustment disorder may worsen over time if the underlying stressors are not effectively managed.

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How Is Adjustment Disorder Treated?

Treatment for adjustment disorder may include therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), as well as certain medications like SSRIs or benzodiazepines. In cases where substance abuse is a contributing factor, a comprehensive approach including talk therapy and medication may be necessary. Treatment centers are also common solutions as they offer a structured approach that’s bolstered by support groups. Here’s a summary of the treatment options available for those with adjustment disorder:

Therapy Types

Therapy plays a crucial role in treating adjustment disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors, helping individuals develop healthier coping mechanisms. Interpersonal therapy (IPT) emphasizes improving relationships and communication skills to address social difficulties. These therapies aim to empower individuals to navigate stressful situations effectively and are often supported by mental health professionals.


In some cases, medicine may be prescribed to help manage specific symptoms of adjustment disorder, such as emotional symptoms and marked distress. Medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs can assist in alleviating feelings of anxiety or depression commonly associated with the condition. However, it’s not typical, as anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications can take several weeks to take effect.

Prescribed medications for certain adjustment disorder cases include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or benzodiazepines. While these medications can be beneficial in symptom management, they are usually used in conjunction with therapy for a comprehensive treatment approach. Regular follow-ups with a doctor are crucial to monitor progress and adjust medication dosages if needed, and it’s important for individuals to understand the potential side effects of these medications.

Treatment Centers

Specialized treatment centers for adjustment disorder, such as The Edge, offer structured care with a multidisciplinary approach involving therapists, psychiatrists, and nurses. These centers provide comprehensive support tailored to individual needs through services like therapy, medication management, and support groups. The structured environment promotes healing and growth in a supportive atmosphere, especially during stressful situations.

Causes of Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment Disorder - Woman on elevator screaming from stress

Adjustment disorder is most often situation-based, triggered by major life changes or events such as moving, retiring, marrying, or having children. Let’s dive into the primary causes of adjustment disorder:

Major Life Changes

Adjustment disorder can be triggered by significant life changes such as relocating, starting a new job, or ending a relationship. Both positive and negative events can contribute to its development. Adjusting to these changes requires time and support from others, particularly when separation or divorce is involved, which can be a stressful situation for all parties, including children and adolescents.

Common stressful events like divorce, job loss, or illness can lead to adjustment disorder. The impact of these events varies based on individual coping mechanisms and support systems. Seeking help during challenging times is crucial to prevent the escalation of symptoms and to address any subtypes of the disorder that may manifest.

Stressful Events

Adjustment disorder can affect individuals of all age groups, from children to older adults. Symptoms and coping mechanisms may differ based on the developmental stage of the individual. Recognizing adjustment disorder in different age groups is vital for appropriate treatment.

Various life events such as marriage, childbirth, or retirement can trigger adjustment disorder. The stress associated with these significant events can overwhelm an individual’s coping abilities. Seeking professional help during transitional periods can facilitate adjustment and recovery, and may involve a study of the individual’s unique reactions to the situation.

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Addressing Complications

If left untreated, adjustment disorder can lead to potentially serious complications, including chronic stress, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts. Here’s an overview of the potential outcomes that can arise if early intervention isn’t prioritized:

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress, stemming from persistent work pressure, financial struggles, or turbulent relationships, can trigger adjustment disorder. The prolonged exposure to stressors like school pressures or workplace challenges can gradually erode one’s mental and physical well-being. Managing stress effectively through techniques like mindfulness and therapy is crucial in averting the onset of adjustment disorder.

The continuous strain of unresolved issues can also escalate into adjustment disorder. Over time, the accumulation of stress can manifest in various symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and even physical ailments. Seeking professional help and adopting healthy coping mechanisms are vital in mitigating the risks associated with this disorder.

  • Prolonged exposure to stressful situations

  • Cumulative impact on mental and physical health

  • Importance of early intervention and stress management

Suicidal Thoughts

In severe cases of adjustment disorder, individuals may experience intrusive suicidal thoughts, reflecting the gravity of the condition. The presence of suicidal ideation underscores the urgent need for immediate intervention and support. Suicidal tendencies often stem from feeling overwhelmed by intense emotions and unmanageable stressors.

The emergence of suicidal thoughts signals a critical juncture where professional intervention becomes imperative. Individuals grappling with adjustment disorder may find themselves entangled in a web of despair and hopelessness. Seeking help promptly from mental health professionals or crisis lifelines is pivotal in ensuring safety and providing necessary support during such vulnerable moments.

  • Risk factors associated with adjustment disorder

  • Urgency of seeking immediate assistance

  • Connection between overwhelming emotions and suicidal ideation

Preventing Adjustment Disorder

Support system for adjustment disorder

Preventing adjustment disorder from triggering is a matter of managing stress, and accepting support from family and friends. Here’s a summary of the advised preventative measures for individuals facing adjustment disorder:

Stress Management

To prevent adjustment disorder, managing stress effectively is crucial. Techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and physical activity can help calm the mind and reduce stress levels. Setting boundaries and learning to say no in overwhelming situations are essential. Engaging in self-care activities like getting enough sleep and eating well is also vital. By incorporating these techniques into daily routines, individuals can enhance resilience, maintain a positive mindset, and cope effectively with life's challenges, including school pressures for adolescents and children.

Support Networks

Support networks are crucial in preventing adjustment disorder, with family, friends, and support groups offering emotional support and empathy. Connecting with others facing similar challenges provides validation and encouragement, fostering a sense of belonging and community. These relationships create a safety net for long-term recovery, ensuring individuals have guidance and comfort during difficult times, ultimately strengthening mental health resilience. Regular appointments with mental health professionals and discussions about medication or therapy types can be part of this support.

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If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with adjustment disorder, here’s what you can expect from your recovery journey, as well as the long-term outlook for treatment:

Recovery Expectations

Recovery from adjustment disorder requires patience and self-compassion, as it’s a gradual process. Consistent adherence to treatment plans, including possible medicine for emotional symptoms or marked distress, is essential for progress, and it’s crucial to understand that each individual’s journey towards healing is unique. Support networks, therapy sessions, and self-care practices play vital roles in the recovery process. Maintaining a positive mindset and seeking professional help when needed can aid in overcoming setbacks. Recovery timelines vary, and setbacks are normal during this journey.

Long Term Treatment for Adjustment Disorder

Long-Term Outlook

Individuals with adjustment disorder have a promising long-term outlook with proper treatment and support. Full recovery is achievable through consistent therapy maintenance and stress management techniques. Ongoing monitoring of symptoms helps prevent relapses and ensures overall well-being.

Staying connected to supportive communities, engaging in regular therapy sessions, and prioritizing self-care activities are also key components of long-term recovery. By implementing healthy coping mechanisms and stress-relief strategies, individuals can foster resilience against future challenges. Lastly, regular check-ins with healthcare providers can help track progress and address any emerging symptoms promptly, including substance abuse or syndrome development, which are potential complications of untreated adjustment disorder.

Seeking Professional Help

Therapy for Adjustment Disorder

If you feel that you’re experiencing symptoms of adjustment disorder, the first step is to seek help from a mental health professional, or a treatment center like The Edge with mental health experts on staff. Here are your next steps if you’re ready for therapy and treatment:

Knowing When

Seek mental health professional help if symptoms of adjustment disorder persist for an extended period. Early intervention is crucial for better outcomes and faster recovery. If the symptoms significantly impact your daily functioning, it's time to consult a health care provider.

Consult a healthcare professional when you notice persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or hopelessness. Difficulty concentrating, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, and withdrawal from social activities are also red flags. These signs indicate the need for professional assistance in managing adjustment disorder.

Adjustment Disorder Support Group

Finding a Specialist or Treatment Center

When seeking help for adjustment disorder, consider consulting therapists, psychologists, or psychiatrists. Choose a healthcare provider with experience in treating adjustment disorders for effective support. Support groups and online resources can be valuable tools in locating suitable specialists.

As for treatment centers, it’s advised that you look for a facility that offers comprehensive services that specifically address adjustment disorder. Therapists specializing in cognitive-behavioral therapy or interpersonal therapy can provide effective strategies for managing symptoms. Psychologists trained in trauma-focused therapies can also offer valuable support.

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Closing Thoughts

Adjustment disorder can impact anyone, but recognizing the symptoms early and seeking professional help are crucial steps in managing and overcoming this condition. Now that you understand the causes, symptoms, treatment options, and preventive measures discussed, you can empower yourself or someone you care about to address adjustment disorder effectively.

If you or a loved one are experiencing challenges coping with significant life changes or stressors, don't hesitate to consult a mental health professional. Taking proactive steps towards addressing adjustment disorder can lead to improved mental well-being and a healthier outlook on life. Your well-being matters, so prioritize seeking the assistance you need to navigate through difficult times.

Move Past Deeply Stressful Life Events With The Edge Treatment Center

At The Edge Treatment Center, we understand the profound emotional toll that adjustment disorder can take — how it can disrupt your work, relationships, and broader sense of self. AjD isn’t a mere response to stress, but a complex emotional struggle that deserves compassionate, professional care.

That’s where we come in. The Edge, located in Santa Ana, CA, has a range of proven treatment methods and a compassionate staff that will be by your side every step of the way. From therapy that addresses your distress to building coping skills to manage mood changes, we offer a range of therapies tailored to your unique needs.

Take a moment to review our treatment modalities below, and please reach out to The Edge today if you or someone you care about is ready to manage and overcome adjustment disorder.

Treatment Modalities We Offer

At The Edge Treatment Center, we provide a suite of evidence-based therapies designed to help you overcome adjustment disorder and regain emotional stability. Our therapeutic approaches include:

Case Management

Our dedicated case managers guide clients towards resources that support recovery from adjustment disorder, focusing on a holistic strategy tailored to each person’s unique circumstances and challenges.


CBT aids patients in altering maladaptive thoughts and behaviors associated with adjustment disorder, aiming to reduce the likelihood of persistent distress and promote a balanced emotional state.


DBT assists individuals grappling with the emotional upheaval associated with adjustment disorder, promoting enhanced emotional regulation and constructive life changes.


EMDR facilitates the processing of trauma that may contribute to adjustment disorder, using eye movements to diminish emotional pain.

Experiential Therapy

Through engaging activities, experiential therapy helps patients rediscover joy and appreciation for life, addressing the traumatic events that may underlie adjustment-related issues.

Family Counseling

Family counseling strengthens the recovery process by reinforcing family bonds and creating a supportive network essential for emotional stability.

Group Therapy

Group therapy provides a communal space for individuals to connect and support one another, reinforcing recovery through collective strength and shared experiences.

Individual Therapy

Tailored therapy sessions concentrate on the particular hurdles each client faces, supporting their journey towards an emotionally healthy lifestyle.


MAT combines approved medications with therapeutic practices to effectively address adjustment disorder, easing symptoms and reducing the chance of prolonged distress.


TMS, a non-invasive treatment, employs magnetic fields to activate the brain, aiding in the alleviation of overwhelming emotional responses.

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing encourages individuals to pursue positive life choices, such as adapting to change, by fostering a sense of personal achievement and motivation.

Trauma-Informed Care

Recognizing the profound impact of trauma on emotional well-being, Trauma-Informed Care offers a thoughtful approach to support patients throughout their recovery, highlighting the role of trauma in emotional and mental health.

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