Cannot just ‘Get Over’ it? You May Need Adjustment Disorder Treatment

Find out why those suffering from an adjustment disorder are overwhelmed by stress and anxiety, and unable to cope with life situations in a normal manner.


Unlike personality disorders or mood disorders, an adjustment disorder is a short-term stress-related disorder that typically does not last for more than 6 months. However, the effects of this disorder can be detrimental to the person who is suffering from it. In some cases, if not treated, adjustment disorder can lead to long-term Major Depressive Disorder or even suicide.

What is Adjustment Disorder?

As mentioned above, adjustment disorder is a short-term disorder, caused by a specific and identifiable event. In some cases, when the event or circumstance causing the stress is on-going, a person may be diagnosed with chronic adjustment disorder but this is typically not the case.

Also known as a reactive disorder, an adjustment disorder occurs when a person is not able to cope with, adjust to or recover from a disturbing life event within a normal amount of time, or without excessive feelings of stress and/or anxiety.

What Causes Adjustment Disorder?

Because this disorder is caused by the individual’s lack of ability to cope with a certain situation, the causes can vary widely. However, there are some life events, changes or disturbances in particular that can cause adjustment disorder more frequently, which include the following:

  • problems within a marriage or other relationship
  • divorce
  • moving cities or countries
  • changing schools or starting a new job or career
  • conflict within the family
  • death of a loved one
  • unexpected catastrophes
  • health problems
  • sexuality issues
  • ongoing, stressful life events
  • life changes, both minor and major

Signs and Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder

In order to be diagnosed as adjustment disorder, the symptoms must present themselves within three months of the incident, and should not last more than 6 months from the end of the stressor.

That being said, adjustment disorder symptoms often show up in the following ways:

  • feelings of depression, or depressed mood
  • impaired functioning in occupational or social situations
  • agitation
  • arguing or fighting with family, friends or even strangers
  • anxiety, stress, tension and worry
  • withdrawal from friends, family or obligations
  • physical symptoms include general aches and pains, trembling or twitching, headaches, stomach-aches, etc.
  • nervousness
  • crying spells

It must be noted that symptoms of adjustment disorder, just like the causes, can vary widely and will be different from person to person.

It must also be noted that one of the most telling symptoms is that the reaction to the stressor is much greater than what would be typically expected in that situation. This overreaction can affect the person’s ability to function normally, may it be insomnia, inability to focus on work, or any of the above-named symptoms.

Adjustment Disorder vs. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) also refers to a mental condition where a person experiences a tremendous amount of stress or anxiety caused by a particular event, and thus there can be some confusion between the two. However, PTSD is typically more intense, often referred to as one of the most debilitating mental health disorders out there. PTSD generally occurs after a life-threatening or equally traumatic event and can last for many years. Without proper treatment, PTSD can last a lifetime.

Adjustment Disorder on the other hand, is a short-term stress response that, once again, rarely lasts longer than 6 months and can be caused by less-traumatic events.

Adjustment Disorder Treatment Options

Those suffering from an adjustment disorder will often be told by friends and family to ‘just get over it’ or to ‘move on’. And despite the most genuine effort to do just that, those suffering from this disorder are simply unable to stop the feelings of stress and anxiety caused by the event.

Medication is rarely prescribed, as adjustment disorders are short-term problems. Instead, the most common form of adjustment disorder treatment involves personalised, client-centred therapy combined with Cognitive Behaioural Therapy (CBT) which has long been used in the treatment of addiction and many other mental health disorders.

Typically, treatment is relatively quick with 1-2 sessions per week for approximately one month usually being enough for one to get back on track, and move on with life in a positive manner. However, when an adjustment disorder is accompanied by an addiction to drugs or alcohol, more intensive treatment may be needed.

Adjustment Disorder and Addiction

Approximately 5-10% of the world’s population has experienced an adjustment disorder of some type, but many are not properly diagnosed, and do not seek treatment. Some of those affected instead choose to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol in an effort to suppress feelings of anxiety and depression and make themselves feel ‘normal’ again. Unfortunately, however, this only exacerbates the problem in the long run, and can lead to the development of a serious addiction.

For those who use drugs and alcohol as a coping mechanism, it is important that when seeking treatment, both the addiction and the mental health disorder are treated at the same time. In these cases, more frequent treatment sessions may be required, or inpatient rehabilitation at an addiction treatment centre may be necessary.

Getting the Help You Need for an Adjustment Disorder

If your or a loved one are finding it hard to get over a life event, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. Even though the disorder is temporary, the effects can be debilitating and work, school and/or relationships can suffer. If not properly treated, the disorder can intensify, with some sufferers developing increased feelings of depression which could potentially lead to increased suicide risk.

At The Cabin Bangkok, we offer effective outpatient treatment for adjustment disorders and addiction if need be. Mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more so. It is important to take care of your mental health in order to live a productive, healthy and happy life. If you would like more information regarding the treatment of adjustment disorders or other mental health illnesses, contact one of our counsellors for a consultation today.

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