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Guide to Adjustment Disorder With Anxiety Symptoms & Treatment

According to research, 6.9% of US adults are diagnosed with adjustment disorder annually. An individual may develop an adjustment disorder following a traumatic incident or significant life changes. Keep reading to learn more about this condition mixed with anxiety.


What Is An Adjustment Disorder With Anxiety?

Adjustment disorder with anxiety is when you feel anxious or scared for a while after a stressful event. Symptoms usually begin soon after the event and can last 3 to 6 months. It brings short-term changes in your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.

Adjustment disorder is how you respond to stress, like money issues, breakups, accidents, or job loss, causing temporary nervousness or fear. Even positive events like marriage can be stressful.

Feeling stressed, worried, or fearful is normal, but if it lasts for months or is more severe than usual, it’s called adjustment disorder.

What Are The Symptoms Of Adjustment Disorder With Anxiety?

Having adjustment disorder feels like an intense reaction to stress, making you more emotional than usual—sad, worried, or on edge. It’s as if the stress amplifies your feelings, impacting your thoughts and behaviors for a while.

Here are some common symptoms of adjustment disorder with anxiety:

  • Excessive Worry: Constantly feeling anxious or fearful.
  • Nervousness: Feeling on edge or restless.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Struggling to focus due to anxious thoughts.
  • Tension: Physical symptoms like muscle tension or headaches.
  • Irritability: Easily getting frustrated or agitated.
  • Feeling Overwhelmed: Sensation of being unable to cope with daily tasks.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Avoidance: Trying to evade situations that trigger anxiety.
  • Physical Symptoms: Such as trembling, sweating, or a racing heart.
  • Social Withdrawal: Pulling away from friends and family due to fear.

Individual experiences may vary, and it’s essential to consult with a mental health professional for a proper assessment and diagnosis.

How Common Is Adjustment Disorder With Anxiety?

Adjustment disorder can affect anyone, as it arises in response to specific life stressors. It is not limited to a particular demographic and can manifest in individuals of all ages, backgrounds, and experiences. The prevalence may vary based on factors such as the nature of stressors and individual resilience.

In the US, 5% to 20% of mental health treatment visits are linked to adjustment disorders.

What Are The Types Of Adjustment Disorders?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) categorizes various types of adjustment disorders. Published by the American Psychiatric Association, this manual is a comprehensive guide to understanding and classifying mental health conditions.

Here are the types of adjustment disorders:

  • Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood: Characterized by feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
  • Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety: Involves excessive worry, nervousness, or fear.
  • Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood: Combines symptoms of both anxiety and depression.
  • Adjustment Disorder with Disturbance of Conduct: This is marked by behavioral issues, like acting out or reckless behavior.
  • Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Disturbance of Emotions and Conduct: Involves a combination of emotional and behavioral symptoms.
  • Adjustment Disorder Unspecified: Used when symptoms do not fit into specific categories but still result from a significant life stressor.

Each type reflects the range of emotional and behavioral responses individuals may have to stressors.

What Causes Adjustment Disorder With Anxiety?

Experiencing stress or trauma can lead to the development of adjustment disorders. A stressor is an event or situation that triggers anxiety, which is the body’s physical and emotional response to change.

Common instances could include (but aren’t restricted to) the following:

  • Significant life changes.
  • Traumatic events.
  • Relationship issues.
  • Work-related stress.
  • Financial difficulties.
  • Health crises.
  • Family conflicts.
  • Academic challenges.
  • Major life transitions.
  • Environmental changes.

What Are The Triggers For Adjustment Disorder With Anxiety?

Triggers are things that remind you of a stressful event or trauma, often bringing strong memories and affecting how you feel. They can lead to symptoms of adjustment disorder with anxiety.

Triggers can be anything, like seeing a photo, hearing a familiar song, smelling or tasting a specific food, or feeling the texture of certain clothing.

Triggers are unique to each person. The symptoms of adjustment disorder with anxiety can also range from mild to severe, depending on how intense the triggering situation is and how personally significant it is for you.

An individual's adjustment disorder with anxiety experience may vary, and it's essential to consult with a mental health professional for a proper assessment and diagnosis.
An individual’s adjustment disorder with anxiety experience may vary, and it’s essential to consult with a mental health professional for a proper assessment and diagnosis.

Learn More:

Free Online Anxiety Quiz

Take the quiz below to explore if you may be experiencing symptoms associated with anxiety. This quiz is not a substitute for professional diagnosis, so seek guidance from a mental health professional for an accurate assessment.

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How Is Adjustment Disorder With Anxiety Diagnosed?

Diagnosing adjustment disorder with anxiety involves a clinical assessment where a mental health professional evaluates symptoms, considers the timing of stressors, and follows diagnostic criteria outlined in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). This process includes ruling out other potential causes and engaging in open communication to gain insights into the duration and severity of symptoms.

Diagnosing adjustment disorder with anxiety typically involves:

  • Clinical Assessment: A mental health professional conducts a thorough evaluation, discussing symptoms, stressors, and their impact on daily life.
  • Diagnostic Criteria: The diagnosis follows specific criteria outlined in the DSM-5, considering the presence of anxiety symptoms within a defined timeframe after a stressor.
  • Rule Out Other Conditions: The clinician ensures that another mental health condition does not better explain the symptoms.
  • Collaborative Discussion: Open communication between the individual and the clinician to gather insights into their emotional and behavioral experiences.
  • Duration and Severity: The duration and intensity of symptoms are assessed to determine if they align with the diagnosis of adjustment disorder.

Understanding the individual’s unique situation is crucial for an accurate diagnosis.

Adjustment disorder with anxiety treatment plans are tailored to each person, considering their unique situation and triggers.
Adjustment disorder with anxiety treatment plans are tailored to each person, considering their unique situation and triggers.

How Is Adjustment Disorder With Anxiety Treated?

Treatment for adjustment disorder with anxiety usually involves a mix of therapies. One common approach is talking therapy, like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps change negative thoughts and manage anxiety. Supportive counseling also provides a safe place to express feelings and find healthier ways to handle stress.

In more severe cases, medication might be prescribed, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs, depending on individual symptoms and needs. It’s crucial to remember that treatment plans are tailored to each person, considering their unique situation and triggers.

Involving family and friends for support is often helpful in creating a well-rounded recovery plan. Regular check-ins and adjustments to the treatment plan ensure it continues to address the symptoms of adjustment disorder with anxiety effectively.

What Medications Treat Adjustment Disorder With Anxiety?

While there is no specific medication approved solely for the treatment of adjustment disorder with anxiety, doctors may prescribe certain medications to alleviate symptoms. Commonly prescribed medications include:

  • Antidepressants: Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) may be used to address symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Anti-Anxiety Medications: Benzodiazepines, such as lorazepam or clonazepam, may be prescribed for short-term relief of anxiety symptoms. However, they are generally used cautiously due to the risk of dependence.
  • Beta-Blockers: These medications, like propranolol, may be prescribed to manage physical symptoms of anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat or trembling.

The choice of medication depends on the specific symptoms and needs of the individual. It’s essential to consult a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable treatment plan, considering potential side effects and interactions.

Antidepressant Withdrawal Timeline

How Long Does Antidepressant Withdrawal Last?

  • In the first days after the antidepressant’s discontinuation, some persons may start to experience symptoms. Among them include headaches, dizziness, agitation, mood swings, and flu-like symptoms. Symptoms typically begin to show up earlier with short-acting antidepressants.
  • During the second week, some patients may have more pronounced mood swings, increased anxiety, and difficulty falling asleep as their symptoms get worse. Additionally, there can be bodily complaints, including nausea and stomach issues.
  • Withdrawal symptoms peak for some people between 2-4 weeks. Anger, worry, and depression are examples of emotional symptoms that might get worse. Physical symptoms like nausea and vertigo might persist.

Four Weeks and Beyond: Over the following several weeks, the symptoms gradually disappear for many people. 

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