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Adjustment Disorder – Managing Challenging Life Transitions

Adjusting to life transitions can be difficult because our familiar routines disrupt, and we experience the uncertainty of unfamiliarity.

Most people feel anxious and fearful after a big change or significant loss – and that’s normal. It is natural to be afraid when you think your future is full of uncertainties. The unfamiliarity can make us feel completely unprepared. We may find ourselves in a personal crisis and become angry, sad, or irritable.

What is Adjustment Disorder?

Adjustment disorder is a stress-related condition where significant life changes or stress disrupt our standard coping mechanisms, making it difficult to adapt to new situations.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual states that symptoms of adjustment disorder usually appear within three months after the change or stress. They can include a depressed mood, anxiety, changes in daily routines, panic, overwhelming stress, difficulty sleeping, and alterations in eating and sleeping habits. When a person experiences adjustment disorder, they experience more stress than expected, leading to significant problems at work, school, or relationships. It can also lead to risky behaviors, isolation, and thoughts of suicide.

Any major life event can bring about adjustment disorder, including but not limited to the death of a loved one, problems at work, divorce, or illness. Sometimes people may adapt to significant changes in a matter of months. However, adjustment disorder may lead to continued emotional and behavioral reactions that may affect your mental health.

Nonetheless, mental health professionals can provide treatment for adjustment disorder, helping you gain emotional footing.

Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder

Although major life events and stress can impact everyone differently, people who struggle to adapt to changes may experience an adjustment disorder. However, the signs and symptoms associated with an adjustment disorder may vary depending on the person. Adjustment disorders typically affect your feelings and perceptions, thereby impacting your behaviors and actions. Some symptoms of adjustment disorders may include:

  • Low mood
  • Low energy
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Headaches
  • GI problems
  • Lowered libido
  • Appetite changes  
  • Overwhelm  
  • Anxiety or nervousness 
  • Isolation  
  • Irritability or anger
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Feeling hopeless,
  • Inability to find enjoyment in things
  • Crying spells  
  • interpersonal problems
  • Problems concentrating
  • Difficulty completing daily activities 
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Headaches

What causes Adjustment Disorder?

Stressors or significant life changes can lead to adjustment disorders. Your genetics, experiences, and temperament can all play a role in developing an adjustment disorder.

What Are The Risk Factors Associated With Adjustment Disorder?

Certain things may make us more susceptible to adjustment disorders. They include:

  • Stressful events
  • An adjustment disorder can result from both positive and negative life events that we find stressful. Some examples of significant life changes include divorce, marital problems, relationship problems, retirement, becoming a parent, moving to a new home, losing a job, losing a loved one, difficulties at school or employment, and Life-threatening events, amongst others.
  • Your life experiences
  • The experiences you’ve encountered throughout your life may also play a role in developing adjustment disorder. For example, people who have experienced significant stress during childhood, are currently facing multiple challenging life events, or have existing mental health concerns may be at elevated risk.
  • Complications
  • If adjustment disorders are not resolved, they can lead to other mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.

Prevention of Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorders are not 100% preventable. However, learning healthy coping skills and resilience can help you in times of stress. If there is a significant life event coming up, like becoming a parent or retirement, you can increase your healthy habits and reach out to your social support. Reaching out to a psychologist may help you review or discover new ways to manage stress or cope with existing symptomatology.

How Can a Psychologist Help – Adjustment Disorder Treatment Therapy

An individual with an adjustment disorder may experience symptoms of depression and/or anxiety. A psychologist may help you reduce these symptoms by helping you challenge and reframe thinking patterns. 

Most stressors are short-lived, and we acquire strategies and new ways to help manage them over time. When a stressful situation goes away, we may experience fewer symptoms because the stressor is no longer present. However, sometimes the stressor becomes a constant in our lives, or a new situation pops up and brings new changes that require new adaptation.

Therapy can help you to deal with changes and stressors while providing support and guidance. They can help you uncover your strengths and find purpose in life, leading to a feeling of stability, renewal, and balance.

Furthermore, A psychologist may help you prepare for changes and provide you with tools and coping strategies to face stressful events in the future. They may help you utilize social support, develop problem-solving skills, reduce stress through relaxation techniques, and understand your thought and behavioral processes. 

Adjustment Disorder Treatment Therapy in Florida

If you feel overwhelmed by life changes, you don’t have to manage it on your own. Dr. Carolina Raeburn, PsyD, can help you navigate and adapt to life changes.

Hello, I’m Dr. Carolina Raeburn, a licensed Clinical Psychologist with a subspecialty in neuropsychology in Miami. I help people with emotional concerns, adjusting to life changes, or those who want to improve their quality of life. I offer coaching and bespoke psychotherapy for individuals and couples, providing cognitive behavioral therapy, depression treatment, anxiety treatment, panic attack treatment, stress management, as well as help those going through life changes, such as grief and loss, chronic and terminal illness, injuries, retirement, perfectionism, and much more.

If you have any questions about my services, please feel free to reach out through the contact form. Or, if you’re ready to start your path to a better tomorrow, please make your appointment today.

*All the information published in this article is for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment. Any information provided here is offered in generic form. Please consult your healthcare provider if you have any questions or concerns. 

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