Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorders are characterized by mild to moderate emotional and behavioral needs. These needs can often be felt as depression and/ or anxiety, feeling hopeless, crying, worrying, and irritability.  Individuals experiencing adjustment challenges in their lives can also see increased physical symptoms such as headaches and stomach aches. These symptoms are commonly seen within the first 3 months of a stressor. While there is no set cause for adjustment disorder, it can be due to one or several stressful events, such as losing a job, moving, marriage, divorce, having a baby, onset of serious or chronic illness, or even the changes, isolation and fears concerning the COVID19 virus. This disorder usually lasts no longer than 6 months once the stressor has ended. Adults can experience adjustment disorder, but it is more frequently diagnosed in children and adolescents (Adjustment Disorders, n.d.; Ramadhan et al., 2020). 

When to seek treatment? 

If you, or someone you love, is experiencing an adjustment or change in life causing difficulty in day-to-day activities and life functioning, please reach out to a professional. Receiving help and support early is essential in preventative care and could lessen the chance that symptoms will be prolonged or worsen.  When symptoms last longer than 6 months, and/or symptoms become more problematic and debilitating, (such as longer lasting depression and anxiety, not enjoying things that you used to like doing, and isolating more), it is strongly recommended that you reach out to mental health professional for support and guidance. Please seek immediate help if you are feeling suicidal.

What about children?

In children and adolescents, adjustment disorder symptoms can include feeling anxious or worried, depressed, hopeless, crying more, sleep difficulty, even increased stomach aches or headaches. They also can include acting out, disregard for rules and norms, being clingier, and having increased irritable moods (Adjustment Disorders, n.d.). 

Children and adolescents can be impacted by similar stressors as noted for adults above. Returning to school, post pandemic, is a stressor for students this coming school year (Ramadhan et al., 2020). Students have persevered during the past year and a half and adjusted from going to school every day, to quarantine, to virtual learning, school ending early, social distancing, teachers and friends wearing masks, hybrid learning, and now most returning to school for in-person learning with some restrictions. Not only have children persevered changes at school, but they have persevered changes at home as well, such as guardian’s work schedules and work place and who supervises the children when guardians are at work and the children home. Many students have adjusted well with the changes; however, some children may have difficulty adjusting and may be experiencing some increased reactive behaviors, such as acting out, and changes in mood.

When to seek treatment for children with symptoms of adjustment disorder?

Similar to adults, when symptoms occur within 3 months of the stressor, last longer than 6 months and/or the symptoms become more problematic and debilitating such as longer lasting depression and anxiety, loss of interest in playing by themselves or with others, loss of interest in extracurricular activities, increased behavioral outbursts and mood changes, or not wanting to go to school, it is time to seek support. If your child is experiencing these or similar symptoms, therapeutic services could be beneficial in assisting your child in feeling more secure and adjusting with recent stressors. Please seek immediate help if you’re student is feeling suicidal.

Reference

Adjustment Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/

conditions-and-diseases/adjustment-disorders 

Ramadhan, M., Putri, A. K., Melinda, D., Habibah, U., Fajriyah, U. N., Aini, S., Prananjaya, B. A., & Ikhsan, D. S. (2020). Children’s Mental Health in the Time of COVID-19: How Things Stand and the Aftermath. The Malaysian journal of medical sciences : MJMS, 27(5), 196–201. https://doi.org/10.21315/mjms2020.27.5.15

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