When facing a major life change, like a breakup, a move, a new job or the loss of a loved one, it is normal to feel a little off balance. But if you find yourself still feeling down after a couple of months and unable to find ways to cope you may have developed an adjustment disorder. Sometimes called “situational depression” an individual with an adjustment disorder often has many of the symptoms common to depression, such as worry, crying, sadness, feeling hopeless and overwhelmed, anxiety, fatigue, or insomnia.
Adjustment disorders are very common and can affect anyone at any age. Unlike depression, an adjustment disorder is generally temporary and typically goes away once the individual is able to find ways to manage the situation. Consequently, treatment from a mental health professional for adjustment disorders is usually only needed for a short period of time.
Adjustment disorder is seen as a number of symptoms such as feeling sad, hopeless, stressed as well as physical symptoms which may occur after experiencing a stressful life event. Individuals with an adjustment disorder may develop these emotional and/or behavioral symptoms as a reaction to the traumatic experience. Symptoms may start about three months after the event and generally last for six months. Although the onset of adjustment disorder is thought to be caused primarily by external, stressful factors and experiences it is also believed that a person’s genetics may contribute to adjustment disorder developing.
Adjustment disorder symptoms – depression and anxiety
Individuals with adjustment disorder commonly experience depression, a depressed mood, anxiety, agitation, physical issues (e.g. general aches and pains, stomachache, headache, chest pain), palpitations, reckless behaviour including truancy, vandalism, reckless driving or fighting and withdrawal.
Adjustment and risk of suicide and suicidal behavior
Individuals with adjustment disorders may run a higher risk suicidal ideation or attempted suicide as well as substance abuse, prolongation or unnecessary use of medical disorders.