Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety

Adjustment disorder with anxiety is a condition that may occur in result of a stressful event in one's life. A significant event that causes stress can be either positive or negative in nature, such as a wedding or birth, or the experience of a death, illness or loss of a job. When the reaction involves feelings that are disproportionate to the particular event, it may be classified as adjustment disorder. Adjustment disorder produces strong negative feelings and may interfere with normal, daily activities, but these feelings are temporary. When the accompanying reaction primarily involves anxiety, it is classified as adjustment disorder with anxiety.

Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety

When a person is coping with a stressful event, feelings of anxiety and sadness may often occur. When these feelings are excessive and produce anxiousness that interferes with activities, work and family life, professional help may be recommended. Following is a list of symptoms produced by adjustment disorder with anxiety:

  • Excessive distress in reaction to any particular event
  • Interference with job, social or home life
  • Many of the symptoms of anxiety disorder will be present during this time, such as rapid heartbeat, panic attacks, problems with sleeping, loss of appetite and loss of interest in normal and daily functions

Causes of Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety

The surface trigger for adjustment disorder with anxiety is the stressful event that brought about individual feelings of anxiousness and panic, such as significant loss or financial worries. There is no conclusive evidence to suggest what may cause this extreme reaction in some people, while others recover more quickly and with fewer symptoms to an event similar in nature. Research studies suggest that there may be a combination of causes that depend upon the individual and the circumstances. Biologically, different types of mental illness tend to run in families. This may be caused by genetics, or symptoms and reaction methods can be learned as a child from close family members. A brain chemical imbalance may be partially to blame as well. Different natural chemicals in the brain can be adversely affected by diet, lack of nutrients, toxins or other damage to the brain.

Diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety

If a person's life has been significantly impacted by his or her reaction to a stressful event, professional help may be recommended. A medical doctor should perform a series of tests to determine if there are any physical ailments that may be contributing to the condition. If these types of problems are ruled out, a psychiatrist or psychologist may be referred. A simple evaluation should determine whether symptoms meet the criteria for adjustment disorder with anxiety. To qualify for this disorder, symptoms should not reflect those of any other mental illness, and should not persist for longer than 6 months after the triggering event has ended. During this time, a therapist should perform routine check-ups to rule out more severe illness and to adjust treatment as needed.

Treatment Options for Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety

Due to the temporary status of adjustment disorder with anxiety, medication for symptoms is not generally recommended. If anxiety is severe, an anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication may be prescribed, but the patient should weigh the potential side-effects against other forms of treatment. Therapy options are the best forms of treatment under most circumstances. Following is a brief description of the different types of therapy that may be beneficial:

  • Group therapy - moral and mutual support from others who are experiencing similar symptoms may offer encouragement and ideas for more positive coping skills
  • Psychotherapy - one-on-one therapy with a professional can help to pinpoint negative behavior, offer advice and exercises for improving quality of life and provide an opportunity to monitor the patient for changes in symptoms 
  • Self-help - many types of self-help options can be beneficial in alleviating symptoms. Meditation, reading or joining an online support group can lead to a significant improvement in wellness
  • Family therapy - this type of therapy can be most beneficial if the person presenting with symptoms is a child or adolescent