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Adjustment Disorder: What Is It?

Adjustment Disorder: What Is It?


Adjustment Disorder: What Is It?


In general, people are naturally gifted with the ability to adapt to their life consequences and environment.  However, adjusting may be more difficult for some people. It is now known that the intrinsic ability to adjust can be overwhelmed by extreme life challenges or changes. This should not be taken lightly—it could be an adjustment disorder.

This can happen to any person whose ability to adapt or adjust is impaired; in this case, it can mean losing the quality of life that you or a loved one deserves.

What’s your defense against adjustment disorders? First, understand what it is. Doing so can  help you overcome and recover from it. Next, find an expert who can guide you through your challenges and the condition.


Meet Adjustment Disorder: The Facts to Know

Healthline offers three major highlights that you must understand about adjustment disorders:


  1. “An adjustment disorder is a temporary condition caused by stress. It’s linked with psychological and sometimes physical symptoms that can interfere with your everyday life.”


WebMD says that it is a short-term condition that “occurs when a person has great difficulty coping with, or adjusting to, a particular source of stress, such as a major life change, loss, or event.” The word “short-term” may make you hopeful that there is a good chance it will go away and the symptoms dissipate in due time.

The symptoms of any type of adjustment disorder generally start to manifest within three months after a significantly distressing, traumatic, or life-changing event. Your functionality and your ability to adjust can come back in six months or less, especially with treatment.

Even though the condition may not last long, it is important not to ignore it. It can come with severe symptoms that can disrupt your health, relationships, and career/studies.  


  1. “There are six types of adjustment disorders. Each type is associated with its own symptoms and signs.”


Recognizing the symptoms of adjustment disorders can be challenging; the symptoms are varied because there are six types. Medscape shares these “specifiers” to identify the six subtypes: (1) with depressed mood; (2) with anxious mood; (3) with mixed anxiety and depressed mood; (4) with disturbance of conduct; (5) with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct; and (6) unspecified.

Hence, if you are exhibiting depressive symptoms, it could be a short-term adjustment disorder, or a case of clinical depression. When you experience symptoms associated with the “fight-or-flight” response, it could be an adjustment disorder or anxiety. The best recourse is to see a therapist who can help with the evaluation and diagnosis of symptoms, for proper treatment.


  1. “Adjustment disorders are most often treated with therapy, medication, or a combination of both. The main goal of treatment is to ease symptoms and allow you to return to your normal level of functioning.”


There is no reason to languish while waiting for the disorder to dissipate. Without treatment, some cases can become complicated, and the effects can persist for a long time. The period of treatment could be defined by the severity of your symptoms.

There are appropriate short-term therapy options for you; the choice is a clinical decision that you can discuss with your therapist. Medication can be an option, but it is advantageous to start with drug-free treatment from a therapist. If your case is complicated, your therapist can guide or refer you to a good psychiatrist.


Diagnosing an Adjustment Disorder

When can you be diagnosed with adjustment disorder? According to many references, including Mayo Clinic and Medscape, you must meet the DSM-5 diagnostic criteria for adjustment disorder, which are:

  • Having emotional or behavioral symptoms within three months of a specific stressor occurring in your life
  • Experiencing more stress than would normally be expected in response to the stressor, or having stress that causes significant problems in your relationships, at work or at school—or having both of these criteria
  • An improvement of symptoms within six months after the stressful event ends
  • The stress-related disturbance does not meet criteria for another mental disorder and is not merely an exacerbation of a preexisting mental disorder


Preventing Adjustment Disorders: Is It Possible?

Being a temporary “nonpsychotic disturbance,” adjustment disorders have an extremely good long-term outlook. If you receive immediate and proper treatment and care, you can recover in about six months.

There is no way to tell if you are vulnerable to adjustment disorders, but they are usually triggered by stress. This is why the mental health diagnostic system technically renamed it “stress response syndrome” in 2013. Boosting your resilience will help you stay positive and emotionally strong during adverse life events.

Knowing that adverse life events can happen anytime, you can proactively work on your  resilience with the help of a qualified therapist contracted with Carolina Counseling Services — Pinehurst, NC. It will also help to be surrounded by people who can support or influence you and your therapist, so you stay optimistic, confident, and resilient.


Toward Resilience and Positivity

Changes and challenges, like the seasons, come and go throughout life. They can bring opportunities as well as heartbreak. Your response to a life-changing event, whether it’s an awaited or a devastating one, can be hard to predict. Adjustment disorders are transient, but they can overwhelm you. If your natural ability to adjust has been impaired, it could be a good time to draw your ace—an independently contracted therapist with Carolina Counseling Services — Pinehurst, NC.

Success-oriented people don’t wait to be overwhelmed. Protect your emotional and life “investments” by seeking help from a CCS-contracted therapist who can assist you in fortifying your resilience.

Remember, too, that your own knowledge may not be enough to recognize the symptoms of an adjustment disorder, as they are varied and subject to misinterpretation. Your best option to get immediate treatment is to call Carolina Counseling Services — Pinehurst, NC.

Adjustment disorders are very treatable. Whether it lasts longer than it should or not is your decision. Rather than seek relief through risky activities, call us so you can work on lifting the load that’s weighing you down. 


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Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services – Pinehurst, NC

Counties: Moore county, NC, Lee County, Hoke County, Chatham County

Areas: Pinehurst NC, West End NC, Taylortown NC, Seven Lakes NC, Eagle Springs NC, Jackson Springs NC, Foxfire NC, Candor NC, Norman NC, Ellerbe NC, Rockingham NC

Zip Codes: 27281, 27376, 28315, 28347, 28350, 28373, 28374, 28387, 28388, 28394

Kelly ErkenBrack, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 3+) Children, Teens, Adults, Couples and Families. Anxiety, Depression, Grief and Loss, Mood Disorders, Trauma, Adjustments and Life Transitions, ADHD, Behavioral Issues, Parenting, Relationship Concerns, Self Esteem
Insurance: BCBSTricare Prime/Select, Medicare and Cash
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Location: Pinehurst, NC

Robin Caswell, MSW, LCSW

Specializes in: (Ages 5+), Individuals, Adults, Anxiety, Depression, Grief, Loss, ADHD, ODD, Trauma/PTSD, LGBTQ, Self-Harm, Military Family Life, Mood Disorders, OCD, Phobias
Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare and Cash
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Location: Pinehurst, NC

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