Adjustment disorders and stress management

Adjustment disorders are considered stress-related disorders. We all have our own ways and mechanisms to cope with the stresses of everyday life. However when the amount of stress is overwhelming such that it exceeds the capacity of coping mechanisms, one may have significant adjustment difficulties which manifest in the form of changes in mood and behaviour. A diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder may be made when these psychological and behavioural symptoms are persistent and cause further impediment to our ability to function in our everyday roles.

Risk factors
  • Pre-existing medical and psychological conditions
  • Certain types of personality
  • Poor coping styles
  • Stressful events and transitions in life – relationship breakups, marriage, divorce, changing jobs, retirement, loss of a significant loved one
  • Adjustment disorder with depressed mood
  • Adjustment disorder with anxiety
  • Adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood
  • Adjustment disorder with disturbances of conduct
  • Adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct
  • Adjustment disorder unspecified
  • Feeling depressed, hopeless, helpless
  • Neglecting leisure activities and important duties
  • Tearfulness
  • Constant worries, nervousness, jitteriness
  • Having panic attacks and nightmares
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling lethargic or stressed out all the time
  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Suicidal thoughts and behaviour
  • Psychological and emotional support
  • Psychological therapy
  • Lifestyle advice and modifications
  • Family interventions
  • Medications in the form of anti-depressants or sleeping aids
  • Practical help such as advocating for change in work routines, allowing for a period of recuperation


Treatment focuses on helping the individual cope better with stress, and to reduce stress from the environment. The former involves building skills in stress management, self-care, problem-solving, crisis resolution and interpersonal management. The latter involves mitigating and resolving stressors which could be related to work, school, family, health, bullying, lawsuits or other life challenges.

Medications are usually not required in the treatment of adjustment disorders. However, in some cases, medications can help to improve sleep, mood, energy levels or appetite. The doctor and therapist will make an assessment and recommendation on whether medications will be beneficial.

With proper treatment, professional advice and psychological support, the overwhelming majority of patients recover completely and go on to overcome the challenges in their lives. If you are feeling distressed or stuck in a certain life situation, do not hesitate to seek help. Call or whatsapp us to speak with one of our psychiatrists or psychologists.