Exploring Mental Health Conditions - Is Adjustment Disorder Affecting You?

Bryn Durocher

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Examining various mental health disorders is an educational opportunity and a means to cultivate empathy. It encourages us to reflect on our life experiences, past and present, and whether any opposing thoughts or memories may be impacting our well-being. If you grapple with Adjustment Disorder, delving into its intricacies could provide solace and valuable insights. Keep reading to learn more.

What is Adjustment Disorder?

This mental disorder is related to stressful life occurrences, specifically changes (Carta et al., 2009). Examples of life changes include moving, relationship or career changes (Morin, 2023). Adjustment Disorder can mean significant emotional and behavioral changes in response to life changes (John et al.). It is often diagnosed in children or teenagers but is also prevalent in adults (John et al.). Adjustment disorder has more subjective emotional challenges when compared to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is caused by trauma (Carta et al., 2009).  


Signs and Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder 

Signs of Adjustment Disorder include a reaction to the abnormal stressful change compared to social standards (John et al.). Like other mental health conditions, it interferes with daily life, functioning and psychological well-being (John et al.). 


As Amy Morin wrote in 2023 for Verywell Mind, there are several categories of Adjustment Disorder symptoms symptoms. Adjustment Disorder can be:

1. With depressed mood (low mood, sadness, hopelessness)

2. With mixed anxiety (including fear of separation, as noted by John Hopkins) and depressed mood 

3. With disturbance of conduct (behavioral changes)

4. With a combination of emotional and behavioral disturbances 

5. Unspecified (other reactions not listed). 

Symptoms may include difficulty concentrating, physical symptoms such as fatigue, appetite changes, withdrawal and even suicidal ideation (Psychology Today, 2021). 


Causes and Triggers of Adjustment Disorder 

One or more stressful life changes triggers Adjustment Disorder. How an individual responds to stress can also impact whether they develop Adjustment Disorder (Psychology Today, 2021). Like other mental disorders, a mix of environmental, psychological, and biological elements influence the development of Adjustment Disorder (Psychology Today, 2021). Environmental elements may include life at home, school or work, and biological elements include genetics. Psychological elements may include personality and affect (emotional state). 

Seeking Professional Help for Adjustment Disorder 

Professional clinicians can aid in your journey of recovering from Adjustment Disorder. Clinicians can also inform you about other mental health conditions and treatment, especially if there is comorbidity (more than one disorder). There is never any shame in asking for help: it is the most efficient way of getting better for many people. Others with Adjustment Disorder “discover that treatment aids in alleviating their distress and supports them in navigating a stressful event more constructively and beneficially” (Morin, 2023). 


Psychological support for Adjustment Disorder can be found online and in person. Here are some treatment resources:

-bookmytherapy.ca can help you find a therapist who speaks your primary language and has knowledge of your culture. 


-Non-Canadians (and Canadians) may also visit Psychology Today and choose a therapist who deals with stress, anxiety and depression, depending on what symptoms of Adjustment Disorder you are facing. 


Treatment may involve: 

1. Psychotherapy. Therapy is the most popular strategy to combat Adjustment Disorder (Carta et al., 2009). This may be talk therapy (Morin, 2023), cognitive-behavioral therapy (John et al.) or otherwise. 


2. Medication. Medication may be helpful for symptoms of anxiety and depression (Morin, 2023). A psychiatrist can prescribe many different kinds to suit you and your medical history best.

Coping Mechanisms and Self-Care for Adjustment Disorder 

Active coping skills, such as engagement coping, can benefit those suffering from Adjustment Disorder. Engagement coping means facing issues directly, engaging in social support, and practicing calming or reassuring thoughts (Vallejo-Sanchez et al., 2017). (Dijkstra & Homan, 2016). It is also helpful to be flexible and try different coping strategies for Adjustment Disorder based on context and need (Vallejo-Sanchez et al., 2017).


Amy Morin (2023) on Verywell Mind suggests doing things you enjoy, maintaining good self-care, and problem-solving. Heather Jones (2022) on Verywell Health recommends practicing mindfulness, including yoga and meditation. You can read more about mindfulness in some of our earlier articles here

Real-life Stories of Individuals Dealing with Adjustment Disorder 

Last week, we discussed how important it is to share your story. I hope you find comfort or education from the stories I summarize below, as emotional challenges and well-being have complicated journeys. 


Story one, from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (n.d.), is the following: The individual talks about how they recently made the brave decision to make a therapy appointment, which was very emotional. They call themselves a “control freak” and someone who feels anxious when facing change. They were diagnosed with chronic Adjustment Disorder after being cheated on and their marriage ending. They detail how they waited too long to get help and that mental health is important and valid. They are now noticing positive changes in their mental health.


Story two, from Kayla Balserak for The Mighty (2023), is the following: They had much difficulty in their life adapting to change. They would often face depression and anxiety symptoms. They were eventually diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder with depressed mood. They had trouble making friends due to anxiety and felt desolate. Then, they began therapy and medication. They also became involved in their community and different activities. They explain that Adjustment Disorder is harmful and that therapy is beneficial. 


These stories have a common theme: That things can improve and that finding help when needed is essential.


Prevention and Early Intervention for Adjustment Disorder 

Prevention involves practicing healthy coping skills, resilience, and a support system (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, 2022). Early testing can also benefit children and adolescents if symptoms are prominent (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, 2022). 



While it is nerve-wracking to hear about the stress of Adjustment Disorder, there are various steps you can take to prevent or treat Adjustment Disorder, which we have discussed for you in this article. Feel free to review it and feel encouraged to hone your coping skills and self-care. It can feel perfect and healthy to practice them. Moreover, if you or someone else is suffering or if you suspect they are suffering from Adjustment Disorder, many clinicians are trained to help. Do not feel discouraged or without hope; just by reading this article and increasing your knowledge of mental health, you are taking a step in the right direction. 



Balserak, K. (2023). Adjustment disorder: The mental illness we don’t talk about. The Mighty. http://tinyurl.com/ye29h7sz

Carta, M. G., Balestrieri, M., Murru, A., & Hardoy, M. C. (2009). Adjustment Disorder: epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment. Clinical practice and epidemiology in mental health: CP & EMH, 5, 15. https://doi.org/10.1186/1745-0179-5-15

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital (2022). Adjustment Disorders. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Health Library. http://tinyurl.com/438h4fcd

Dijkstra, M. T., & Homan, A. C. (2016). Engaging in Rather than Disengaging from Stress: Effective Coping and Perceived Control. Frontiers in psychology, 7, 1415. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01415

John Hopkins. (n.d.). Adjustment disorders. JHM. http://tinyurl.com/37hcenzv

Jones, H.(2022). What You Should Know About Adjustment Disorder. Verywell Mind. http://tinyurl.com/c6up2rpv

Morin, A. (2023). Adjustment disorder: When we struggle to adapt to change. Verywell Mindhttp://tinyurl.com/59kmhz3p

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (n.d.). Personal Stories. NAMI My Mental Health. http://tinyurl.com/mabshnnu

PsychologyToday. (2021). Adjustment disorder. PsychologyToday. http://tinyurl.com/29m96xt3

Vallejo‐Sánchez, & Pérez‐García, A. M. (2017). The role of personality and coping in adjustment disorder. Clinical Psychologist (Australian Psychological Society), 21(3), 245–251. https://doi.org/10.1111/cp.12064