How to Overcome Adjustment Disorder
What is Adjustment Disorder?
Sometimes life can be uncertain and even when we see what’s coming, change isn’t always so easy to cope with. Major life events can really shock us into a state of feeling anxious and uneasy, but if these feelings are more severe and persist longer than usual, they may be a sign of an adjustment disorder.
An adjustment disorder is a health condition that results from major life changes or a recurring stressful event and cause a person to experience a group of adverse conditions; they can include trouble with sleeping, a loss of appetite, feeling sad or depressed and even suicidal thoughts. Adjustment disorder is also considered a specific trauma disorder. Other physical conditions that might be experienced with an adjustment disorder include headaches and heart palpitations. This group of conditions are considered symptoms of a disorder when they begin to negatively impact aspects of a person’s life, such as their relationships, work or academics. Symptoms of an adjustment disorder usually start within three months of a stressful experience and usually last up to six months.
Adjustment disorders are connected to stress-related conditions which might be caused by events such as moving to a new place, problems at work or troubles in a relationship. For the most part, we are pretty resilient and can cope with the uncertainty and changes that life brings, but when someone experiences an adjustment disorder they may continue to suffer from unusually severe emotional and behavioral reactions to a stressor in their life.
What Causes Adjustment Disorder?
Everyone reacts to stress differently, so symptoms of an adjustment disorder can vary from person to person. In the case of an adjustment disorder, more stress is caused by a particular event in life than would be expected, and the stress of this event begins to cause problems in that person’s life. The type of stress that causes a disorder can also vary from person to person, sometimes leading to acute stress disorder.
Different things affect how we each react to the stress. Our life experiences partly determine how we deal with stressful situations. Someone’s risk of developing an adjustment disorder might be increased if they experienced major stress as a child or if they are dealing with multiple stressful situations, occurring at the same time. Our temperament and our biology also play a big role in the way that each of us reacts to stressful situations.
Depending on what is going on in your life, certain events (both positive and negative), might increase the chances of someone developing an adjustment disorder. Troubles in a relationship, majors changes such as moving or retirement, transitioning to a new school or workplace can all cause conditions that could result in an adjustment disorder if left unmanaged.
How it Can Affect Your Life
When you can’t shake that grey cloud floating over you, it affects the way you see yourself and the world and can affect your behavior in adverse ways. Adjustment disorders can be associated with adverse changes in behavior such as aggression or recklessness, which is why it’s important to seek out some help if you are having trouble dealing with any negative feelings brought on by a major change or stressor in your life.
If adjustment disorders don’t resolve, they can lead to more serious mental health problems such as a social anxiety disorder, depression or substance abuse An adjustment disorder differs from post-traumatic stress disorder because PTSD usually occurs as a reaction to a life-threatening event and tends to last longer.
Prevention & Recovery
As hard as it can be to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you’re feeling down and out, there are ways to ease that anxious feeling and regain stability in your life again. Here are some effective ways to prepare for and adjust to those stressful life events:
Foster Supportive Relationships
One of the most powerful ways to take on the challenges that life throws at you is to foster and maintain positive and loving relationships. The importance of keeping your friends and family close and reaching out when your feeling stressed or overwhelmed should not be overlooked. When you know that a big change is coming, it is important for us to maintain healthy habits and utilize our support systems such as friends and family before you’re in the midst of a stressful situation. Try to take a moment and remind yourself that this time of stress is only temporary and that there are things you can do to get through. It also never hurts to talk to your health care professional so they can help you prepare for what’s on the horizon.
Meeting with a mental health care professional is a common first step for those diagnosed with an adjustment disorder. Sometimes talking with a mental health professional can help us view our circumstances in a different light as well as help us come up with effective practices for dealing with stress. Therapists can also help us to better understand the cause of a disorder and enable us to resolve it and prepare for any event that might increase the chances of the disorder developing again.
Several different types of therapy have shown success in resolving adjustment disorders, including counseling and support groups. Having a group of people that you can depend on and communicate with during a stressful time can make a world of difference. We suffer when we feel alone to deal with our problems. Whether that group of people is your family, your friends or any support group, it is important to find a group of people that supports your success and to utilize them during stressful times.
Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on changing negative thinking and behaviors and has been shown to help improve people’s reactions to stressors. It is a form of psychotherapy that seeks to increase feelings of happiness by changing dysfunctional thoughts and emotions. This type of therapy can be effective for treating an adjustment disorder especially if the negative response to stress is linked to a stressful childhood event. CBT challenges patients to change the way they consider past events and may give them hope to change their response to a similar event if it happens again.
Interpersonal psychotherapy is another form of therapy that has proven to be effective in dealing with adjustment disorders; this type of therapy involves short-term counseling with a mental health professional. Many people who do experience this type of trauma disorder learn new ways of dealing with stress through therapy and be able to adapt to stress better than before.
Some people suffering from adjustment disorders benefit from taking medications to help ease symptoms such as insomnia, depression and anxiety.
Zoloft and Effexor XR are sometimes prescribed to help with insomnia while ativan and xanax might be prescribed to help patients deal with the anxiety that comes with some adjustment disorders. Because substance abuse can sometimes result from a persistent adjustment disorder, it is important to maintain communication with your your doctor and support systems while using medication so that you can manage your progress. While these medications may help patients deal with the symptoms of adjustment disorders, it is important to address the cause of the stress as well as improve the response that a person has to that stress.
Make A Plan
If you find yourself feeling like your falling into the sunken place--like you can’t bear the weight of your struggles, one initial step that may help you recover is making a plan. Before we even begin taking the steps, making a realistic plan of action can empower you to address the struggles of your life. Consider your current situation and compare it to your ideal situation--how you picture it if everything was going right--then create a plan that includes steps that you can take to get you closer and take it one step at a time. Soon you’ll find that you’ve made progress and even a little bit of progress can be extremely motivating and empowering. Making a plan and taking action is a good way to practice resilience, so that next time life presents a sticky situation, your learned response is to rise to the occasion rather than reacting to stress in an unhealthy way that might negatively impact other areas of your life is in some ways a learned or practiced response. This is why experiencing significant stress as a child can result in increased intensity of an emotional response later in life-- it becomes practiced.
But if you practice certain methods such as making a plan and making progress step by step, you will engrain that way of dealing with stress and it will become your default response. In order to create an effective plan, it can be useful to consider your past responses to stress and identify reactions and strategies that help you cope with stress and those that don’t.
Manage Your Health
With everything that we have going on in our lives, it can be easy to forget how important it is to take the necessary time to care for your body and mind. Just like working out your muscles prepares them to do the heavy lifting, actively preparing your mind and body will help you face the major stress that the day brings. Making conscious decisions to take care of yourself by getting enough sleep, eating nutritious foods will have you ready to face those situations that might cause you anguish.
One of the most effective ways to take your mind off of something is by doing something active. Exercise and recreation play no small role in our mindset and the way we react to stress. They act as great preventative medicine by helping us maintain confidence while improving our health. Exercise helps lower blood pressure which might be a little higher than usual when you’ve got something worrying on your mind. Exercise is also a great way to snap yourself out of an anxious state.
When we are involved in a high-intensity exercise our body releases plenty of feel-good chemicals called endorphins--not to mention our sleep and blood pressure can be improved. Even low activity workouts can cause our brains to make new connections and improve brain function causing you to feel better. So get out there and get your sweat on because no matter what you’ve got going on in life, everyone can enjoy a healthier brain.
Maintain a positive mindset
You never know what life may throw at you and when something stressful happens, sometimes our first thought is a negative one, but there are a few methods that can help us maintain a positive outlook and persevere through any challenges. Practicing meditation and yoga are a couple of ways to relieve stress while increasing your concentration and focus.
One of the key reasons that practicing a form of meditation can help us foster well-being and a positive response to change and stress is because of neuroplasticity. Our brains have the ability to form new connections and adopt new patterns, which in the case of an adjustment disorder, might make a big difference. The more we do something, the stronger the connections in our brains become to support that activity, which is why practicing stress-relief and positive visualization can create a healthy response to the next stressor that comes your way.
How Do I Know?
Typical measures to diagnose an adjustment disorder might include laboratory testing such as an MRI or blood tests so that doctors can be sure that the symptoms experienced are not brought on by something else such as an anxiety disorder or major depression.
There isn’t a sure way to prevent an adjustment disorder, but most people completely recover from any symptoms of adjustment disorder. It is natural for someone recovering from an adjustment disorder to experience lingering symptoms or feelings following a six month period, but by this time the symptoms are not severe enough to require treatment. If you maintain a positive outlook and take the time to care for your physical, and emotional well-being then you should have no problem facing any big changes or major stressors.
If you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety disorder and you don’t know where to turn, call Peaks Recovery today. We are dedicated to treating young adults in a safe and caring environment at our beautiful Colorado Springs location, and we can help.