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Adjustment Disorder

July 30, 2022

what is adjustment disorder?

adjusting to a new reality

by Jamal Ross

Life can hit us hard. Natural disasters, broken relationships, the death of a loved one, loss of a job or a newly diagnosed life-threatening illness can turn our lives upside down. Shock waves can be felt in all areas of our life, including our emotions. There is an adjustment to our new reality. There are times when our adjustment to a stressful life event can become unhealthy. When our adjustment to a stressful event becomes excessive and impacts our behaviors and daily living, this is called adjustment disorder. Adjustment disorder tends to occur within 3 months after a stressful event. Let’s find out more about the symptoms of adjustment disorder and what the bible says about our future when faced with a stressful event.

The symptoms of adjustment disorder are broad. At times, the symptoms of adjustment disorder can mirror those of depression. There can be a sense of sadness or hopelessness. At other times, adjustment disorder can appear similar to generalized anxiety disorder with feelings of nervousness and excessive worry. There also tends to be a disturbance or change in behavior, such as irrationally avoiding situations or place that may remind or provoke a memory or feeling attached to this stressful event. (1) Usually after the stressor and its consequences have ended, these feelings tend to resolve within 6 months. While dealing with adjustment disorder, counseling can be helpful.

Although adjustment disorder can resemble major depression or anxiety disorder, it does not meet the full criteria to warrant these titles. Adjustment disorder does represent a worsening of a pre-existing psychological illness. Adjustment disorder is not due to a medication or underlying medical condition. Adjustment disorder does not represent bereavement. (1) Adjustment disorder represents an unhealthy adaptation to a stressful event that affect social interactions, behaviors and exceeds what would be expected.

In all there are an array of life events that can bring us to our knees and take our breath away. We will all experience loss and disappointments. Notwithstanding, we have to be aware that there is a healthy and unhealthy adjustment process when faced with a stressful life event. Take confidence in what Jesus has told us: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) We can look towards tomorrow with great hope because we know He holds our tomorrows. God will chart a path through your wilderness and bring rivers in your desert. Even in your loss, He is doing something new and amazing. (See Isaiah 43:19) Just wait and see. Your life will be better than you can ever imagine!

1. American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), American Psychiatric Association, 2013.

Jamal Ross

Dr. Jamal Ross is an internist and pediatrician who possesses a passion for prayer and preventative medicine. He has worked in the fields of primary care and hospital medicine.

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