Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood

Adjustment disorder with depressed mood is characterized by an extreme reaction to a life stressor. Stressful events normally produce mild symptoms of sadness, lack of energy or anxiousness, but when symptoms surpass the reaction that might be expected, and begin to negatively impact a person's life, adjustment disorder may be to blame. There are several different characterizations of this particular disorder, and adjustment disorder with depressed mood is accompanied by severe depression, sadness and hopelessness

Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood

Adjustment disorder with depressed mood can be triggered by events of either a positive or negative nature. Circumstances involving a wedding or planning of a trip can cause one to be overwhelmed, as can a death in the family or the end of a marriage. When a person does not recover naturally and becomes severely depressed, this may indicate adjustment disorder. Here are some symptoms to look for when considering adjustment disorder with depressed mood:

  • Distress caused by an event which surpasses the level of emotion one may expect
  • Significant and negative impact on social life, family interaction and job performance
  • Symptoms of severe depression, including sadness, hopelessness, problems sleeping, lack of appetite or overeating, and disinterest in previously enjoyable activities

Causes of Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood

The apparent cause of adjustment disorder with depressed mood is the reaction to stressful events that one may be facing in life. While a death, illness, accident or any major change normally leads to a period of adjustment, the cause of the severity of reaction with some people is currently unknown. Research has uncovered some possible reasons that many people bounce back readily from stress, while others have problems adjusting and may experience a temporary period of severe depression. Imbalance of chemicals in the brain may play a significant role in any mental illness. Additionally, personality traits passed down genetically or arising from learned behavior may make a person more susceptible to this disorder.

Diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood

When symptoms of adjustment disorder with depressed mood persist and begin to significantly impact a person's day-to-day lifestyle, professional help is recommended. A medical physician should rule out any physical ailments that may be contributing to symptoms, and once the result has been determined, a therapist should evaluate the situation for diagnosis. Adjustment disorder with depressed mood can only be diagnosed if symptoms do not point to another mental illness, and the patient is showing signs of clinical depression. During the initial assessment and throughout follow-up appointments, a psychiatrist or psychologist will re-evaluate symptoms and recovery. If symptoms persist for longer than 6 months, a new diagnosis must be made.

Treating Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood

Since symptoms of adjustment disorder with depressed mood are expected to last no longer than 6 months, prescription medication is usually not recommended. Anti-depressants may be considered, but patients should make a decision based on potential side-effects vs. alternative treatment options. Therapy can often be of benefit to adjustment disorder and following is a list of possible choices:

  • Family therapy - this type of therapy is usually beneficial when the patient is a child or teenager. Children normally experience symptoms that are more behavioral than emotional in nature. Because of this, involvement of the family may greatly improve symptoms.
  • Group therapy - mutual support provided by others who have shared the same types of experiences can lead to improved outlook and suggestions for positive changes.
  • Psychotherapy – one-on-one sessions with a therapist will not only be necessary for evaluation of progress, but can also provide a patient with exercises for recognizing triggering events, knowledge of new coping skills and the opportunity to release feelings and emotions in a confidential manner.