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Adjustment Disorders

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 reactions).

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Disclaimer:  You know, we see a disclaimer like this in every ad that lawyers put out, and it probably is a good idea for us to use one, too:  "No representation is made that the quality of the psychological services to be performed is greater than the quality of psychological services performed by other psychologists.  The outcome of assessments or psychotherapy, or individual client satisfaction, cannot be guaranteed and is dependent on many factors.  Material on this site regarding symptoms, disorders, and treatment is informational only.  Diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders requires the expertise of a trained professional."

The information on this site regarding psychological disorders and treatment comes from many sources that cannot be credited, simply because they have been integrated over the years into our general knowledge base. However, one important source is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Edition (1994) published by the American Psychiatric Association.