This disorder is characterized by the development of emotional or behavioral disturbances in response to identifiable stressors. The most common stressors are: death in the family, loss of a job, problems at work, divorce, relocation, or health issues. The distress people experience as a result of exposure to these stressors is more excessive than that which would be expected. As a result, there is significant impairment in social or occupational functioning.
Emotions involved in this disorder range from persistant rage and anger, to depression, anxiety, fear, shame, and guilt. The behavioral disturbances may include: social isolation, physical complaints, academic inhibition, antisocial behavior (i.e. stealing and vandalism), reckless driving, fighting, truancy, and defaulting on legal responsibilities. These emotional and physical symptoms usually occur within 3 months of the onset of the stressor. Once the stressors have subsided, the symptoms are expected to cease within six months.
Treatment of Adjustment Disorders
The treatment of adjustment disorders depends on the severity of the reaction to the stressor. If the symptoms are mild, psychotherapy and counseling are appropriate methods of treatment. If the condition is severe enough to affect daily functioning, then medications should be employed as well. The type of medications chosen would depend on the existing symptoms. Anti-depressants – for depressive symptoms, anti-anxiety and tranquilizers - for anxiety, sleeping aids - for insomnia, mood stabilizers - for manic-like behavior, anti-psychotic medications - in cases when agitation, uncontrolled anger, violence or socially inappropriate behavior is present.