If you have thoughts of suicide, go to an emergency room or call 911 or your local emergency number immediately.
If you have less urgent symptoms of an adjustment disorder, make an appointment with your family doctor. While adjustment disorders resolve on their own in most cases, your doctor may be able to recommend coping strategies or treatments that may help you feel better sooner.
Here's some information to help you prepare for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you've been experiencing, and for how long.
- Write down your key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes, both positive and negative. Even happy events, such as getting married or adding a new child to your family, can cause adjustment disorder.
- Make a list of your medical information, including other physical or mental health conditions with which you've been diagnosed. Also write down the names of any medications you're taking.
- Find a family member or friend who can come with you to the appointment, if possible. Someone who accompanies you can help remember what the doctor says.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor in advance so that you can make the most of your appointment.
For adjustment disorder, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What do you believe is causing my symptoms?
- Are there any other possible causes?
- How will you determine my diagnosis?
- Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
- Do you recommend treatment? If yes, with what approach?
- How soon do you expect my symptoms to improve?
- What will you recommend next if my symptoms don't improve within a few months?
- Does adjustment disorder increase the risk of other mental health problems?
- Should I see a mental health specialist?
- Do you recommend any temporary changes at home, work or school to help me recover?
- Should people at my work or school be made aware of my diagnosis?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Being ready to answer your doctor's questions may save some time to go over any points you want to talk about in-depth. Your doctor may ask:
- What are your symptoms?
- When did you or your loved ones first notice your symptoms?
- What major changes have recently occurred in your life, both positive and negative?
- Are you talking with friends or family about these changes?
- How often do you feel sad or depressed?
- Do you have thoughts of suicide?
- How often do you feel anxious or worried?
- Are you having trouble sleeping?
- Do you have difficulty finishing tasks at home, work or school that previously felt manageable to you?
- Are you avoiding social or family events?
- Have you been having any problems at school or work?
- Have you made any impulsive decisions or engaged in reckless behavior that doesn't seem like you?
- What other symptoms or behaviors are causing you or your loved ones distress?
- Do you drink alcohol or use illegal drugs? How often?
- Have you been treated for other psychiatric symptoms or mental illness in the past? If yes, what type of therapy was most beneficial?
What you can do in the meantime
While you're waiting for your doctor appointment, try reaching out to your friends or family. Talking about your feelings and asking for help is the most important thing you can do to aid your recovery from adjustment disorder.
If your child has symptoms of an adjustment disorder, try gently encouraging him or her to talk about feelings. Many parents assume that talking about a difficult change, such as divorce, will only make a child feel worse. But the opposite is true. Your child needs the opportunity to express feelings of grief, and to hear your reassurance that you'll remain a constant source of love and support.
Mar. 17, 2011
- Adjustment disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-IV-TR. 4th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2000. http://www.psychiatryonline.com. Accessed Dec. 8, 2010.
- Strain JJ, et al. Adjustment disorders. In: Hales RE, et al.. The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Psychiatry. 5th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2008. http://www.psychiatryonline.com/resourceToc.aspx?resourceID=5. Accessed Dec. 8, 2010.
- Casey P. Adjustment Disorder: Epidemiology, Diagnosis and Treatment. CNS Drugs. 2009;23:927.
- Fighting stress with healthy habits. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/StressManagement/FightStressWithHealthyHabits/Fight-Stress-with-Healthy-Habits_UCM_307992_Article.jsp. Accessed Dec. 8, 2010.
- Childhood stress. The Nemours Foundation. http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/feelings/stress.html#. Accessed Dec. 8, 2010.
- Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Dec. 15, 2010.