Adjustment Disorder – Signs & Symptoms – Treatment of Psychiatric Issues

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Adjustment disorder can have a significant negative impact on an individual’s day to day functioning. The disorder typically results in behaviour or emotional responses to external stressors. The disorder is characterised by an inappropriate response or reaction to what would be considered a normal response or reaction to the external trigger.

The condition normally begins approximately two to three months after the initial trigger and usually does not last longer than half a year. There are exceptions to this, for example when one experiences a sudden traumatic event, like death, which would trigger an immediate onset of the condition

Health care professionals have yet to be able to identify the exact root cause of the disorder, however environmental factors, genetics and changes in brain chemistry have been identified as significant contributors.  Below are examples of external stressors and/or dynamics that have been demonstrated to assist health care professionals with the final diagnosis:

  • Experiencing the loss of a loved one
  • Ending an intimate relationship
  • Having another mental disorder
  • Lacking social skills
  • Lacking appropriate coping skills
  • Being a victim of assault, abuse, and/or neglect
  • Surviving a natural disaster
  • Being diagnosed with a progressive medical condition
  • Experiencing a traumatic event

The symptoms of the disorder do, and can, vary from individual to individual. The symptoms present as either behavioural, physical, cognitively or psychosocial, or a combination of these. Below are examples of these symptoms:

Behavioural symptoms:

  • Disinterest in activities once enjoyed prior to the stressor(s)
  • Being argumentative
  • Using and/or abusing substances
  • Vandalism

Physical symptoms:

  • Inability to sleep
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pains
  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches
  • Fatigue

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Lack of concentration
  • Inability to commit to plans
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Trouble with memory

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Increased levels of stress
  • Increased anxiety
  • Inability to experience pleasure
  • Feelings of desperation
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Hopelessness
  • Depressed mood

The effects of an adjustment disorder can be significant for any individual’s ability to operate effectively in their day to day lives and relationships. Below is a list of examples of these effects:

  • Family discord
  • Decreased performance at work or school
  • Change in interpersonal relationships
  • Complications in medical conditions
  • Substance use
  • Self-injury
  • Suicidal attempts
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