An adjustment disorders occurs when someone experiences a significant event and
develops some temporary difficulties as a result.
Common symptoms include sadness, anxiety, irritability, or changes in
behavior. Other symptoms can include trouble sleeping, loss of appetite, difficulties with
concentration, forgetfulness, restlessness, tension, fatigue, apathy, excessive worry or
rumination, changes in work/school performance, withdrawal, and increased substance use.
In children and adolescents, you might also see anger and acting out
behaviors, withdrawal, and deterioration in school performance. In addition, children
sometimes show regression to more immature behaviors, such as thumb-sucking or bedwetting.
Now, all of these symptoms can be part of other disorders and, to some
extent, adjustment reactions mimic those other disorders. The distinguishing features of
adjustment reactions are the presence of a precipitating event, the duration of the
distress, and the degree of impairment caused by the symptoms.
The goal of treatment for adjustment reactions is to minimize the
negative impact of the event, speed up resolution of the person's symptoms, and avoid the
progression from an adjustment reaction to a full-blown syndrome (such as a major
depressive episode, an anxiety disorder, or substance abuse).
The Role of the Psychologist
The psychologist helps
people overcome adjustment reactions by allowing them to talk about and work through the
precipitating event. This often involves an exploration of the personal meaning of the
event and its impact on the person's life.
The psychologist also encourages the person to identify and express his
feelings regarding the event. In addition, the psychologist helps the person make
decisions and choices that promote a constructive response to the event.
Finally, the person can learn new skills for handling other crises and
events that occur in life (perhaps make him less vulnerable to future adjustment
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