Adjustment Disorder (AD)

Adjustment Disorder (AD) as the name suggests occurs due to an identifiable life-changing event such as loss of job, changing school, or divorce. Stressors may or may not be extreme events. In some cases, they may be grossly traumatic, such as the sudden loss of a parent. In other cases, events could be relatively minor and seemingly trivial. Someone that experiences Adjustment Disorder may have a warped perception of reality and so when even a trivial problem arises, they might perceive it as a major threat. In such cases, we experience heightened stress levels and display much more intense reactions which cause impairment to social, cognitive, and day-to-day functioning. 

 

The causes of AD vary among us and are largely dependent on our perception of the event and how we manage it.

 

Common triggers of AD:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce or problems with a relationship
  • Being diagnosed with an illness
  • Moving away from home 
  • Losing a job 
  • Assault/ Accidents

 

Signs and symptoms of AD:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies 
  • Feeling sad and frequent crying 
  • Constant feeling of worrying/nervousness/stressed
  • Sleeping difficulties 
  • Poor appetite
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Difficulties concentrating
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Headaches and heart palpitations
  • Suicide attempt or ideation 

 

Signs, symptoms, duration, and severity of adjustment disorder are different, due to individual differences such as gender, age, childhood experiences, and environment, etc. 

 

Most common types of treatment:

  • Psychotherapy
    • Identify stressors and relief symptoms
    • Provide emotional support
    • Manage response to stressors
    • Introduce problem-solving strategies and coping methods
  • Medication
    • Alleviate symptoms of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and insomnia

 

Tips to cope with AD:

  • Reducing expected stress
    • When we go through life-changing events like moving house or the loss of a loved one, there is a certain amount of predictable stress we would expect and it would be helpful to delegate other responsibilities to reduce stress. 
    • E.g. Upon the loss of a loved one, much stress can arise from the planning of the wake, job, and family adjustments. We can protect our mental health by delegating the jobs to others and not take on additional tasks. 
  • Joining a support group
    • It can feel comforting to know others who have been or are going through similar problems. It is a safe place to share your worries and anxieties. 
    • Support groups are particularly effective for stresses from bullying, trauma, and pregnancy, etc. 
  • Lean on your support system
    • Having a close friend or family whom you trust to listen without judgement. 
    • E.g. In tough time periods like National-Service and Divorce, having someone to listen to your troubles can help make you feel more relieved. 
  • Correct coping methods 
    • To keep a healthy mind, we should maintain a healthy body. Try to avoid engaging in drugs or alcohol to cope with stress, but rather exercise, reading and spending time with friends and family. 

 

While symptoms of AD is very similar to Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) but have an identifiable event and are usually less severe, the amount of distress and impairment to our daily lives would still be significant and should not be regarded as shameful for seeking professional help.

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