Adjustment Disorder: The Unnoticed Mental Illness

In 2000, I was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder. I wondered if it was something that I should talk to my Chiropractor about. I had never heard about it before, nor did anyone I knew. Even today, 18 years later, it is still a disorder that we rarely talk about.

In 2000, I was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder. I wondered if it was something that I should talk to my Chiropractor about. I had never heard about it before, nor did anyone I knew. Even today, 18 years later, it is a disorder that we rarely talk about.

My diagnosis came after I experienced a crushing depression due to my brother-in-law being suddenly killed in a car accident. Initially, my diagnosis was caused by my brother-in-law’s death. But in therapy I realized that Marv’s death was a trigger that brought me face to face with  deeper layers of pain and loss. Three years earlier, my father died after a short battle with cirrhosis caused by a much longer battle with alcoholism. Marv was a mentor, something that I never had in my relationship with my dad.

What is an Adjustment Disorder?

Steve Bressert, Ph.D. responded to this question Psychcentral. He says, “an adjustment disorder is characterized by the development of emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to an identifiable stressor (or stressors) occurring within 3 months of the onset of the stressor. A stressor is anything that causes a great deal of stress in the person’s life. It could be a positive event, like a wedding or purchasing a new home, or a negative event, like a family member’s death, the breakup of an important relationship, or loss of a job.”

He goes on to write that the symptoms cause concern and disruption that is serious enough that a person will seek treatment, because:

  • They feel distress that is in excess of what would be expected for most people in the same situation, or
  • They experience significant difficulties in  how they function in their social, occupational, or educational roles

How common are adjustment disorders?

“When something in my life drastically changes, it takes me a while to adjust and oftentimes, I experience extreme anxiety and/or depression during this period, depending on the circumstances.” Kayla Balserak

One study of 637 adults found that 11.5% experienced the disorder in the past 12 months. The most common reasons that led to the diagnosis are experiencing an illness, a “love affair” and domestic problems.

When something in my life drastically changes, it takes me a while to adjust and oftentimes, I experience extreme anxiety and/or depression during this period, depending on the circumstances.

Kayla Balserak writes about her experience with adjustment disorder in The Mighty:

I’ve always said that I often have difficulties adjusting to life changes, but I figured that was just part of who I was. I am a creature of habit. I love routine, schedules and having everything planned out. I enjoy familiarity, my comfort zone and feeling safe.

When something in my life drastically changes, it takes me a while to adjust and oftentimes, I experience extreme anxiety and/or depression during this period, depending on the circumstances.

Who knew there was such a thing as an adjustment disorder though? I certainly did not! When I was diagnosed with “adjustment disorder with depressed mood,” I literally had no clue that was a thing.

In a related article, I discuss the 10 Bad habits that make it difficult to learn from your difficult experiences.

Keep it Real

Photo by Ibrahim Rifath on Unsplash


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