​​​​Sometimes acute and unexpected stress can overwhelm a person to a point of severe emotional and mental distress, resulting in an adjustment disorder that can disrupt various aspects of daily living. These stressors can range from trauma to loss of relationships and other life changes.

​​​Adjustment disorders may take up to three months to show up after a stressor occurs. The symptoms can vary considerably, usually appearing as depressive or anxiety symptoms, and sometimes even both. Physical changes in behaviour are most common in children and the elderly, but this can happen in any age group.

The affected person may display the following signs:

  • Violent behaviour
  • Dangerous driving
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Problems sleeping
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviour

These signs may persist for more than six months if there is a chronic stressor or long-lasting consequences.

​​​There are two main types of treatment for adjustment disorders – psychotherapy and medication. Most people improve after treatment and only need it for a short while.

  • Psychotherapy
    Psychotherapy can provide emotional support and can also help people learn why the event affected them so much. As they process how the event resulted in their reaction, they also learn useful coping skills that will help them in the future. Other equally effective modes of therapy include crisis intervention, family and group therapies, cognitive behavioural therapy, and interpersonal psychotherapy.
  • Medication
    In some cases, medication may help a person manage their symptoms of depression and anxiety, as well as suicidal thoughts. Antidepressants and short-term sedatives are most often used to treat adjustment disorders. As with therapy, the person may only need medication for a few months.

Adjustment disorder​ happens when a stressor overwhelms a person’s ability to cope. As people receive the right support and learn effective skills, recovery is possible.

To make an appointment to see a doctor, please call 6389 2200.

Adjustment Disorders