How to Cope with Adjustment Disorder
Change is a part of life, but that does not mean all change is good or easy to accept. For any change, big or small, good or bad, there is a period of adjustment as we try and process what has happened and deal with whatever impact it has made on our lives. For some, this adjustment period is more difficult. It causes them undue stress and anxiety, resulting in a host of emotional issues, even if the change was expected. In these cases, adjustment disorder may emerge.
Having an adjustment disorder does not mean you simply dislike change or that change stresses you out. Everyone experiences some amount of anxiety when change occurs. There is a major distinction between regular coping and an adjustment disorder. Namely, the person with adjustment disorder will find that their everyday lives are disrupted because of their inability to cope.
Causes of an adjustment disorder are many and varied. Any major change in life or a life stressor could be the culprit. It could be something that happens just once, like a divorce, new school/job, natural disaster, or a death. But it could also be a recurring problem like financial troubles or a strained marriage.
There are a variety of sub-types of adjustment disorder, so the symptoms will vary. Here are some examples of the different kinds of adjustment disorder:
Adjustment disorder with anxiety
A person with this kind of adjustment disorder will experience things like nervousness, difficulty concentrating, memory problems and a general feeling of overwhelmed.
Adjustment disorder with depression
Also known as situational depression. Symptoms are similar to major depression, such as feeling hopeless or a lack of pleasure in things that used to make you happy.
Adjustment disorder with conduct disturbance
Drastic change of behavior, such as increased violence and impulsiveness. Other behavioral problems are also associated with this kind of adjustment disorder.
Combination of the above
A person could experience both depression and anxiety, or depression and anxiety mixed with disturbed conduct.
It is also possible to be diagnosed with an adjustment disorder when your symptoms do not exactly line up with the other types.
The biggest difference between people with adjustment disorders and people who just have depression, anxiety, or another mental disorder is that adjustment disorders are temporary. They are triggered by an event, like moving to another state, or problems in a relationship, or the death/illness of a loved one. Then they will go away after a time. Once you have adjusted to the new changes, the symptoms typically go away, but not always. Additionally, it is impossible to know what changes may occur in your life and at what time. If you are suddenly hit with a barrage of nonstop changes over the course of several years, the disorder may grow into something worse.
Treatment is still strongly recommended, however, no matter how long or short the episodes are. Situational depression can lead to major depression if left untreated. When dealing with a suspected mental health concern, it is always best to seek the advice of a trained medical professional. If you suspect an adjustment disorder after a major life event or feel like there is something else wrong, do not assume it is temporary and seek help as soon as you can.
If you are not in a position to see a professional right away, there are some coping methods you can utilize on your own time to help improve your state of mind and cope with adjustment disorder.
Avoid unnecessary stress.
Moving soon? Starting a new job? If you are aware of a big change coming up in your life, do not take on additional responsibilities that will make you even more anxious. Put any non-essential work on the back burner and focus on what is important.
Start a healthy habit.
This doesn’t mean healthy for just your body, but also your mind. Journalling, exercising, forcing yourself to think positive thoughts: These all can help put your mind at ease. Take up yoga for calm meditation or running if that is what helps you get your thoughts in order. Find a way to express yourself and your feelings.
Use your social support.
Family and friends are vital during times of high stress and change. After you are done eliminating the non-essential work, start reaching out to others to see what they might be able to help with. Even if it is just a willing ear to vent your anxieties and frustrations to.
Reach beyond your circle.
Depending upon the change, you might consider finding a support group. Finding others who have been though the same or similar things will help you feel not as alone and be inspired by their success stories. It is an opportunity for you to find people who are experiencing or have experienced the same things and make new friends.
Above all though, seeking professional help is the best solution. They may have variety of different techniques and treatments for you to teach you how to cope with an adjustment disorder. It could be medication, such as antidepressants or antianxiety medications, or it could be a recommendation for talk therapy. Again, even if it is short term, talk with a therapist to figure out a treatment plan that is right for you and your needs. In therapy, you will learn your triggers and identify your symptoms.
With proper treatment and care, adjustment disorders are typically cured within six months. Time and patience are key to successful recovery. Understand that it is OK to feel what you are feeling and know that there are a lot of options to help you. Changes can be tough, but tackling them does not have to be a challenge you face by yourself.