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Conditions: Adjustment Reaction/Adjustment Disorder

What is referred to as an adjustment disorder?

The term ‘adjustment disorder’ encompasses stress-related conditions and it is sometimes referred to as situational depression that is thought to be relatively common.

Work problems, going away to school, retirement, an illness, death of a close family member or any number of life changes (both positive and negative) can cause stress. Most of the time, you would adjust to such changes within a few months. But at times, you may continue to have emotional or behavioural reactions that can contribute to feeling anxious or depressed. You are likely to experience more stress than would normally be expected in response to a stressful or unexpected event, and the stress causes significant problems in your social, occupational, or academic functioning. Signs and symptoms depend on the type of adjustment disorder and can vary from person to person.

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When to seek help?

Adjustment disorders affect how you feel and think about yourself and the world and may also affect your actions or behaviour. Some examples include:

  • Feeling sad, hopeless or not enjoying things you used to enjoy

  • Frequent crying

  • Depressed mood

  • Worrying or feeling anxious, nervous or stressed out

  • Trouble sleeping

  • Lack of appetite

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Feeling overwhelmed

  • Difficulty functioning in daily activities

  • Withdrawing from social supports

  • Avoiding important things such as going to work or paying bills

  • Physical complaints such as fatigue or jitteriness

  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviour

Treatment recommendations

Recommended treatments for adjustment disorder include psychological therapy, group therapy, and self-help resources or stress management for example. The primary goal of treatment for adjustment disorder is to relieve symptoms and to help an individual achieve a level of functioning comparable to what they demonstrated prior to the stressful event. Psychotherapy is the treatment of choice for adjustment disorder, but the type of psychotherapy (for example interpersonal vs CBT) varies depending on the stressor and specific symptoms. The selected treatment would be individually tailored to your needs following a comprehensive assessment process in our service.

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