Adjustment disorders are mental health concerns that are characterized by significant emotional distress and problematic behaviors in the aftermath of a loss, life change, or other significant event.
Change can be difficult for everyone, and even positive changes can be stressful. But the signs, symptoms, and effects of an adjustment disorder are far more serious than the temporary struggles most people experience in the aftermath of change.
As described by Johns Hopkins Medicine, people who have adjustment disorders will respond to significant life events in a manner that is excessive and causes impaired functioning in one or more areas of life.
The good news is that adjustment disorders are treatable conditions. When a person receives effective adjustment disorder treatment, they can achieve improved health. Tower Behavioral Health in Reading, Pennsylvania, provides comprehensive, personalized inpatient adjustment disorder treatment for adults of all genders age 18 and older.
Signs & Symptoms of Adjustment Disorders
As defined in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), the signs and symptoms of adjustment disorders occur in the aftermath of a stressor. Common examples of stressors that can trigger the onset of the signs and symptoms of an adjustment disorder include:
- Ending a romantic relationship
- Death of a loved one
- Suffering a significant academic or professional setback
- A persistent medical condition
- Getting married
- Becoming a parent
To meet the criteria as established in DSM-5, the signs and symptoms of an adjustment disorder must involve considerable distress that is not proportional to the stressor, and they must cause impairment in one or more areas of your life.
For example, in the aftermath of a stressor like the ones listed above, the following may be signs and symptoms of an adjustment disorder:
- Excessive worry or sadness
- Outbursts of anger or crying for no obvious reason
- Disturbed sleep patterns
- Significant change in appetite
- Acting with uncharacteristic recklessness
- Difficulty concentrating, focusing, or making decisions
- Pulling away from family and friends
- Failing to tend to personal hygiene or appearance
- Not meeting personal, professional, or academic responsibilities
- Experiencing a pervasive sense of hopelessness or helplessness
Adjustment Disorder Causes & Risk Factors
Researchers have not identified a sole definitive cause of or universal risk factor for adjustment disorders. However, certain factors can increase a person’s risk for developing this type of disorder. Potential causes of and risk factors for adjustment disorders include:
- History of disadvantaged life circumstances
- Experiencing significant stress
- Having certain other mental health concerns
Adjustment Disorder Statistics
A study that was published on the website of the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine included the following adjustment disorder statistics:
- Experts estimate that adjustment disorders affect about 1% of the general population.
- More than 11% of people who received primary care for any mental health concern also had an adjustment disorder.
- Among patients who received care in a psychiatric emergency setting, more than 17% had an adjustment disorder.
- A follow-up study revealed that 71% of adults who had received adjustment disorder treatment were continuing to do well five years after completing treatment.
- The prevalence of suicide among people who have adjustment disorders is about 4%.
Potential Effects of Adjustment Disorders
The effects of adjustment disorders include both temporary setbacks and long-term problems. The nature and severity of the effects of an adjustment disorder can vary from person to person depending on a host of individual factors.
In general terms, the potential effects of adjustment disorders include:
- Substandard performance in school or at work
- Academic setbacks, job loss, and unemployment
- Strained or ruined relationships with family members or friends
- Onset or worsening of other mental health concerns
- Social withdrawal or isolation
- Suicidal thoughts
- Suicidal behaviors
The elevated risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among people who have an adjustment disorder is evidence of how serious the effects of this disorder can be. Anyone who demonstrates any signs or symptoms of an adjustment disorder or experiences any effects of an adjustment disorder should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare provider.
When you get comprehensive, personalized treatment for an adjustment disorder, you can minimize your risk for continued harm, learn to manage the symptoms that have been impacting your life, and achieve improved mental health.
Benefits of Treatment for Adjustment Disorders
Without proper treatment for an adjustment disorder, this mental health concern can continue to undermine your ability to live a healthy and productive life.
In some cases, certain symptoms of adjustment disorders may subside over time, while in other cases, they can persist for extended periods. Even when adjustment disorder symptoms have temporarily subsided, this does not mean that you are no longer in danger.
Failing to receive effective adjustment disorder treatment means that you remain at risk for additional effects of an adjustment disorder in the aftermath of a future stressor. But when you get inpatient treatment for an adjustment disorder, you can learn to manage the symptoms you’ve been experiencing, and you can develop more effective coping skills and strategies.
The benefits of treatment for adjustment disorders include easing the symptoms you’re currently experiencing and preparing you to respond to future stressors in a healthier manner. Additional benefits of treatment for adjustment disorders include overcoming any sense of shame, guilt, or isolation you may have been experiencing, as well as understanding how to access additional help when you need it.
Therapies Used in Treatment for Adjustment Disorders
Every person who receives inpatient adjustment disorder treatment at Tower Behavioral Health follows a personalized plan.
When you enter our adjustment disorder treatment center, one of your first activities will be to complete a thorough assessment. The information gathered during this assessment will help your treatment team develop the personalized adjustment disorder treatment plan that is ideal for you.
Depending on various individual factors, your personalized inpatient treatment for an adjustment disorder may include:
- Psychotherapy and psychoeducation
- Individual and group sessions
- Family meetings
- Medication management
- Music, dance/movement, and art therapies
Your adjustment disorder treatment at Tower Behavioral Health may incorporate the principles and practices of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), and motivational interviewing.
Prior to completing our inpatient adjustment disorder treatment program, you will receive a detailed discharge plan to guide your continued progress. This plan will identify the professional resources and community-based services that can help you maintain the progress you make at our adjustment disorder treatment center.
This content was written on behalf of and reviewed by the clinical staff at Tower Behavioral Health.