Adjustment disorder is a condition that occurs when a person has difficulty in coping with, or adjusting to, a particular event that is a source of stress, like marital problems or business problems. People diagnosed with disorder will experience severe reactions than any other person to the same stressful event.
In 2013, the Mental Health Diagnostic System, officially changed the name of the disorder from “Adjustment Disorder” to “Stress Response Syndrome”. This was done because people with this disorder often show symptoms similar to clinical depression. This disorder is informally sometimes referred to as “Situational Depression”.
Causes of the Disorder:
The extreme response may be due to the stressors that occur around the person or to the person. It may be a singular event like – loss of a loved one or business difficulties, or the occurrence of multiple stressors simultaneously like – loss of a loved and business difficulties. It can also be due to the constant exposure to stressful situations like a child witnessing his/her parents fight continuously or living in a crime ridden neighbourhood.
Adjustment disorder are very common. The percentage of people who have received out patient mental health treatment and have been diagnosed for adjustment disorder ranges from 5 – 20 %. In hospital psych wards, the number of people being diagnosed with this disorder is upto 50% of the patients.
Symptoms of this disorder:
The symptoms usually start to occur within 3 months of exposure to the stressor and not more than 6 months of withdrawing oneself from the stressor. According to the DSM-5, the symptoms or behaviours must be clinically significant, typically evidenced by one or both of the following:
Marked distress out of proportion to the severity or intensity of the stressor, taking into account the external context and cultural factors that might influence symptom severity and presentation.
Significant impairment of social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.
Symptoms of this disorder can vary widely and it differs from person to person. The major challenge to this disorder is that the person diagnosed with this disorder most often than not does not remember the stressor that triggered their symptoms. Individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds are at a higher risk for this disorder.
Difference between Adjustment Disorder and PTSD:
Adjustment disorder is different from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD occurs after a life-threatening event and the symptoms start after a month of the event and last for a very long time period. The symptoms of adjustment disorder rarely seen after 6 months.
Adjustment disorder is linked with suicidal behaviour and substance abuse and the occurrence of other medical illnesses due to the interference of several medications. If the disorder persists it is known to progress into a major depressive disorder.
The primary goal of the treatment for this disorder is to relieve the symptoms and improve the person’s routine functionality. Recommended treatments include individual psychotherapy, family therapy, behaviour therapy, and self-help groups.