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How do I move on? Understanding Adjustment Disorder – Part 1

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Adjustment disorder is a group of symptoms, such as stress, feeling sad or hopeless, and physical symptoms that can occur after you go through a stressful life event. The symptoms occur because you are having a hard time coping. Your reaction is stronger than expected for the type of event that occurred. An adjustment disorder is a temporary condition caused by stress. It’s linked with psychological and sometimes physical symptoms that can interfere with your everyday life.{{more}}

Causes

Many different events may trigger symptoms of an adjustment disorder. Whatever the trigger is, the event may become too much for you.

Stressors for people of any age include:

o Death of a loved one

o Divorce or problems with a relationship

o General life changes

o Illness or other health issues in yourself or a loved one

o Moving to a different home or a different city

o Unexpected catastrophes

o Worries about money

Triggers of stress in teenagers and young adults may include:

o Family problems or conflict

o School problems

o Sexuality issues

There is no way to predict which people who are affected by the same stress are likely to develop adjustment disorder. Your social skills before the event and how you have learned to deal with stress in the past may play roles.

Generalized symptoms:

Symptoms of adjustment disorder are often severe enough to affect work or social life. They include:

o Acting defiant or showing impulsive behaviour

o Acting nervous or tense

o Crying, feeling sad or hopeless, and possibly withdrawing from other people

o Skipped heartbeats and other physical complaints

o Trembling or twitching

To have adjustment disorder, you must have the following:

o The symptoms clearly come after a stressor, most often within three months

o The symptoms are more severe than would be expected

o There do not appear to be other disorders involved

o The symptoms are not part of normal grieving for the death of a loved one

o Sometimes, symptoms can be severe and the person may have thoughts of suicide or make a suicide attempt.

The mental and physical symptoms associated with adjustment disorder usually occur during or immediately after you experience a stressful event. While the disorder lasts no longer than six months, your symptoms may continue if the stressor isn’t removed. Some people have just one symptom. Others may experience many symptoms.

The mental symptoms of adjustment disorders can include:

o acting rebellious or impulsive

o acting anxious

o feeling sad, hopeless, or trapped

o crying

o withdrawn attitude

o lack of concentration

o loss of self-esteem

o suicidal thoughts

There is one type of adjustment disorder that is associated with physical symptoms as well as psychological ones. These physical symptoms can include:

o insomnia

o muscle twitches or trembling

o fatigue

o body pain or soreness

o indigestion

Dr Miller is Health Psychologist at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital.

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