Adjustment Disorders: Causes and Symptoms

The diagnosis of adjustment disorders covers a wide range of maladaptive responses to psychological stress, which could be acute, chronic or repeated. These may be responses to illness, changes to family life, developmental milestones such as puberty, marriage, relocation, changes in employment etc.

Adjustment disorders are often exhibited as (sometimes a combination of) anxious moods, depression, behavioral disturbances, psychosomatic pains and ailments. withdrawal, mental inhibition.

How are Adjustment Disorders Experienced?

  1. Affective states. This varies from individual to individual, depending on the individual’s mental wellbeing and personality. They manifest as anxiety, depression, and conduct change. There may be experiences of apprehensiveness,  due to pervasive sense of uncertainty.
  2. Cognitive patterns. The individual with adjustment disorder may be overly preoccupied with what they are facing, or they may defenisvely avoid it.
  3. Somatic States. It depends of how the individual deals with the situation emotionally, adjustment disorder can manifest itself in physical symptoms.
  4. Relationship patterns. Relationship with significant people may be affected due to the stress caused by the disorder. How a person reacts in relationship depends on the individual situation.

How can Adjustment Disorder be Treated?

Individual psychotherapy and/or family therapy is helpful to alleviate the levels of anxiety and stress, by:

  • Helping the client to uncover the root of the negative affects.
  • Allowing the client to better cope with the new situation.
  • If necessary, to help the client take active control of his/her situation (if the situation is negative, e.g. joblessness).
  • To provide a safe environment for the client to be heard. Hence reducing depression and anxiety caused by loneliness.
  • For clients who are stable, to help uncover his/her personality structure / childhood experiences that renders him/her vulnerable to the changes.

Ultimately the goal of psychotherapy is to support the client to express his/her adjustment difficulties and fears, so that he/she may find his own resource to cope with the situation.

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