Adjusting and dealing with change is a necessary part of living a human existence. There is nothing as certain as change. Some changes are good, and others would be considered by most people to be bad. Any change can cause stress, however. When a person fails to adjust to change and therefore experiences significant symptoms, he is probably suffering from Adjustment Disorder. There are some symptoms and requirements that identify the disorder more fully, but it is basically caused by the inability of a person to cope with a challenge, a disruption or a loss.
Challenges, Disruptions and Losses
A challenge could be described as some new experience that will require a person to change their behavior, learn something new or change their situation. A new job is a good example of a challenge that could cause significant stress in a person’s life. Even a move or a marriage could be considered a challenge. Disruptions are less expected and usually more negative experiences. Being transferred to a new job suddenly is a disruption. A divorce may also be dealt with as a serious disruption to normal life. The spouses as well as the children may have a difficult time dealing with such a disruption. Losses are even more negative experiences and often involve less preparation on the person’s part. Sudden death of a loved one or the loss of one’s home to a fire is an example of stressful losses that can cause Adjustment Disorder.
Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder are similar to those of other disorders but are not usually quite so severe. They may include depression, anxiety and a change in behavior. A person may also experience physical symptoms. Depression usually affects sleep and over all mood and motivation levels. Anxiety causes a person to be on edge and unable to focus or complete routine tasks. A person’s behavior may also change due to stressful circumstances. A normally pleasant person may become excessively irritable or aggressive, for example. A social and outgoing person may become withdrawn and moody. Physical symptoms may manifest themselves in any system of the body. Common symptoms are headaches and nausea.
Severity of Adjustment Disorder
If the symptoms of Adjustment Disorder are severe, it is possible that another psychiatric condition is the actual culprit. Adjustment Disorder symptoms are usually less severe than those of other disorders. Depression, for example, is a much longer lived and serious condition. The person’s readiness for change as well as the particular circumstances will affect how serious the symptoms of Adjustment Disorder will be. If the death of a loved one is expected due to chronic illness, the repercussions will probably not be as severe as they would be if a young child were suddenly killed in an accident.
Adjustment Disorder symptoms do not usually last more than 6 months. If the results of a stressful event seem to carry on for more than that length of time, another diagnosis and different treatment may be necessary. The exception to the rule is if Adjustment Disorder symptoms are related to a chronic illness or long-term situation. In that case, the symptoms may be very long-term.