Adjustment disorders are mental conditions that occur following traumatic or stressful events. Learning how to cope with an adjustment disorder can help people diminish the effects, which include anxiety and depression.

Adjustment disorders are challenging mental conditions that can result in anxiety, depression and uncharacteristic behaviors. Since adjustment disorders can occur following any impactful event, avoiding these mental conditions is sometimes impossible.

Everyone reacts differently to life-altering events. Some people may experience more extreme emotions than others will. For some people, graduating from school could result in nostalgic, romanticized feelings about a person’s relationships with classmates, the positive influences of their teachers or the comfortable environment of the school. In other people, graduating could cause sadness and result in difficulty moving on.

However, there are ways to cope effectively with an adjustment disorder. Understanding some adjustment disorder coping skills can help people who experience these psychological conditions.

Factors That Increase the Risk of Developing an Adjustment Disorder

For most mental conditions, different factors can increase the risk of development. Genetics is one of the most likely factors for many psychological disorders. However, environmental factors are the only factors that increase the risk of developing an adjustment disorder.

The DSM-5 states, “Individuals from disadvantaged life circumstances experience a high rate of stressors and may be at increased risk of adjustment disorders.” So someone who has difficult life circumstances experiences negative occurrences frequently. The abnormally high exposure to adverse events increases that person’s risk of developing an adjustment disorder.

Genetics can be an indirect factor in adjustment disorder development. Genetics can contribute to increased levels of stress, which can make people more susceptible to developing an adjustment disorder when a stressor occurs.

The three main effects of adjustment disorders are anxiety, a depressed mood and irregular behavior, such as becoming argumentative or isolated. The DSM-5 specifies that these results of an adjustment disorder are classifiable as subtypes depending on which effect is predominant.

Adjustment Disorders with Depression

Adjustment disorders with depressed mood involve tearfulness, feeling hopeless and general negative emotions as the predominant reactions to a stressor. While some of the adjustment disorder subtypes involve one dominant effect, there are subtypes of adjustment disorders that involve combinations of the effects, such as depression paired with either anxiety and disturbed mood. The combined subtypes of adjustment disorder occur when the symptoms of one effect are not significantly more predominant than the symptoms of the other effect. An example is an adjustment disorder that mixes depression with disturbed conduct, such as abusing drugs or alcohol.

Adjustment Disorders with Anxiety

Adjustment disorders with anxiety is another adjustment disorder subtype. This specific form of adjustment disorder involves nervousness, worry or separation anxiety as the predominant reactions to a stressor. There are adjustment disorders that combine anxiety with depression or disturbed conduct. This type of adjustment disorder occurs when anxiety symptoms are not predominant.

Related Topic: Separation anxiety treatment

Tips for Coping with Adjustment Disorders

Adjustment disorders may be unpreventable for some people. Life-altering changes, even positive ones, can be challenging to move on from. However, there are ways to respond proactively to the symptoms of adjustment disorder and achieve a healthy level of functioning.

A few tips and options to keep in mind when coping with an adjustment disorder include the following:

1. Avoid Stress

Stress is sometimes unavoidable. Deciding to leave a job or buying a home can be challenging. While experiencing stress is natural, stress and adjustment disorders are connected. Stress from traumatic or life-changing events can lead to adjustment disorders as people struggle to move on from the way their life used to be.

Stopping these stressors from occurring may be impossible. The death of a loved one or the end of a relationship are common events that destressing from may be difficult. However, using effective coping skills can block stress from building up after a difficult event, thus reducing a person’s chances of developing an adjustment disorder.

2. Social Support

Finding social support following a life-altering event can help manage an adjustment disorder’s effects. There are different adjustment disorder support groups available depending on the stressor someone experienced. For example, divorce is a common cause of adjustment disorders. If someone’s marriage recently ended, they can join a support group specifically for divorcees.

3. Talk to a Mental Health Professional

Psychotherapy is a type of adjustment disorder treatment. Psychotherapy, which is also called talk therapy, involves counseling sessions with a mental health professional. These meetings can help people manage a variety of mental health conditions, from depression to bipolar disorder.

There are several types of psychotherapy, and some may work better depending on the specific issue and the patient’s personality. Therapy sessions may include an individual patient, a group of patients, a couple or an entire family. Depending on the stressor, one person’s adjustment disorder treatment plan may be different from another’s.

If your adjustment disorder has led to substance abuse as a coping mechanism, call The Recovery Village. Representatives can help you begin rehabilitation and treatment for your addiction and mental condition.

a man with a beard wearing glasses and a hoodie.
Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more

Brady, Krissy. “If Change Completely Stresses You Out, Y[…]d Have This Disorder.” Self, July 21, 2016. Accessed February 15, 2019.

National Center for Biotechnology Information. “Adjustment Disorder: Current Perspectives.” 2018. Accessed February 15, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.