Adjustment Disorders Symptoms & Causes

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What causes adjustment disorders?

Adjustment disorders are a reaction to stress. There is not a single direct cause between the stressful event and the reaction. Children and adolescents vary in their temperament, past experiences, vulnerability, and coping skills. Their developmental stage and the capacity of their support system to meet their specific needs related to the stress are factors that may contribute to their reaction to a particular stress. Stressors also vary in duration, intensity, and effect. No evidence is available to suggest a specific biological factor that causes adjustment disorders.

What are the symptoms of an adjustment disorder?

In all adjustment disorders, the reaction to the stressful event seems to be in excess of a normal reaction, or the reaction significantly interferes with social or educational functioning. There are several subtypes of adjustment disorder that are based on the type of the major symptoms experienced. The following are the most common symptoms of each of the subtypes of adjustment disorder. However, each child and adolescent may experience symptoms differently. The symptoms of adjustment disorders may resemble other medical problems or psychiatric conditions. Always consult your adolescent's physician or mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis.

Adjustment disorder with depressed mood

  • low mood
  • tearfulness
  • feelings of hopelessness

Adjustment disorder with anxiety

  • nervousness
  • worry
  • jitteriness
  • fear of separation from a caregivers

Adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood

  • nervousness
  • worry
  • jitteriness
  • fear of separation from a caregivers
  • low mood
  • tearfulness
  • feelings of hopelessness

Adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct

  • violating the rights of others
  • Truancy, destruction of property, reckless driving, fighting

Adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct

  • fear of separation from a caregivers
  • violation of the rights of others
  • truancy, destruction of property, reckless driving, fighting
  • low mood
  • tearfulness
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • nervousness
  • worry
  • jitteriness

Prevention of adjustment disorders

It is unclear why some children and adolescents may develop an adjustment disorder and others do not. However, developing and practicing coping skills, engaging with social supports, healthy eating habits, ensuring adequate sleep, and daily exercise will likely help your child to deal with stressful life events. Furthermore, early detection and intervention can reduce the severity of symptoms, enhance the child’s normal growth and development, and improve the quality of life experienced by those with adjustment disorders.

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