Adjustment disorder (AD) also known as reactive, situational or exogenous depression that occurs when a person is incapable of coping with a certain stressor such as a traumatic life event. As people who are suffering from adjustment disorder or situational depression often have signs that are similar to other stress related disorders, the treatment approach might be similar. As feelings of discouragement and crying, disinterest and depression are associated, it is also sometimes called as situational-depression. Unlike major depressive disorder or clinical depression, this is created by an exterior element and revolves around an individual who is unable to adjust to the changing environment.

Adjustment Disorder or Situational Depression

What is the Difference between Normal Stress and an Adjustment Disorder (AD) or Situational Depression?

Stress can be termed as a physical and psychological reaction that is resulting from any positive or negative situations in a person's life. Stress cannot be quoted as bad or abnormal. The major tact or ability lies in handling the stress without any complications.

When you have issues in adjusting with a stressful event that changes the lifestyle, it becomes difficult to adjust to the daily chores. This can often be termed as an Adjustment Disorder or Situational Depression. This can be called as a type of stress-related mental sickness that can often affect the thoughts, feelings and behavior of a person. This disorder can occur in children as well as adults.

Signs and Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder (AD) or Situational Depression Can Include:

  • Anxiety
  • Sleeping Problems
  • Relationship issues
  • Poor work or academic performance
  • Worrying all the time
  • Suicidal Thoughts.

If you are subjected to any stressful event, it is imperative to try some self-help techniques like speaking to a trusted family member, mediation or yoga, undergoing a regular exercise routine and so on. If all the above-mentioned techniques do not help, then it is advisable to seek help from a medical practitioner.

Treatment Options for Adjustment Disorder (AD) or Situational Depression

The treatment for adjustment disorder often seems helpful for most people and many of them only need treatment for a brief period. While this is the case, some may also need a longer course of treatment for coping with the disorder. Medication and psychotherapy are two major types of treatment sought for adjustment disorder. Medication is not used for treating the disorder unless the patient has issues in coping with the normal therapy sessions.

Psychotherapy for Treating Adjustment Disorder (AD) or Situational Depression

Psychotherapy is the basic treatment for adjustment disorder and this can be attended by an individual, group or family. Through therapy, a person can get enough emotional support and follow a normal routine. It can also help him or her in coping with other events in a healthier way, so that you can deal with the problems without any issues.

Individual Therapy to Resolve Adjustment Disorder (AD) or Situational Depression

Individual therapy can also be referred as counseling or psychotherapy and can be provided by a trained therapist in a secure environment. The therapist often allows one to get through the beliefs, feelings and behaviors that are challenging their emotional wellbeing. Certain aspects are being introduced into their life that helps in coping with the changing environment; develop a sense of understanding, set goals and work to achieve them.

The initial step is to schedule an appointment with the therapist. You will be asked to share some necessary information via telephone that will help the therapist in an easy evaluation. Once this is done, a longer therapy session may be arranged for getting a complete treatment for the disorder. It is necessary for you to build a strong rapport with your therapist as it will help you in getting hold of the right treatment that can be of great help. When this is done in the initial stages, it will be able for you to decide the exact fees and the course of treatment.

Group Therapy to Help Patients Suffering from Adjustment Disorder (AD) or Situational Depression

Group therapy often involves discussion that prevails among a group of people usually six to ten, in the presence of a group therapist. The entire session will focus on the issues that are commonly faced by the group, including anger management, bereavement/ grief, eating disorders, suffering from anxiety or depression, recuperating from sexual abuse in the childhood and much more.

With the guidance of a group therapist, the members explore or share their feelings as well as various behaviors that are associated with it. All the different points are heard and new strategies are designed for coping with the situation. Group therapy grants all its participants a wonderful opportunity to speak about the issues on a common platform that is supportive and caring as well as contributes to changes and healing.

When looking to find the right group therapist, it is necessary to consider a well-trained, professional and ethical therapist (like membership in AGPA (the American Group Psychotherapy Association). If you are part of an individual therapy, seek support from both the therapists in collaboration. An experienced therapist will take your interview before suggesting any method of medication and speak about the experience without any uneasiness. When in need, you can also ask them about their work experience as well as other necessary things.

Family Therapy to Help Treat the Sufferers of Adjustment Disorder (AD) or Situational Depression

Family therapy relies on a belief that family has its own unique social importance and the communication pattern is different from any other social group. The communication pattern is often under the influence of parents' values and customs, personality of various members and authority of other extended family members like grandparents. As a result of all these things, each member develops a unique behavioral pattern that lays an impact on all the other family members.

The Sessions of Family Therapy are Based on the Following Concepts:

  • The symptom of illness that is found on one family member may be due to the interpersonal family issues. To treat a single member who is identified with an ailment is like finding a cure for the symptom but not treating the disease entirely. It is possible that if only one family member is treated, the rest can easily fall ill. The sequence will persist until the disorder is diagnosed and treated.
  • Any change in a single member of the family will affect the structure of the family as well as every member included in the family.

Doctors or therapists who use such means often consider involving the entire family for the treatment of a single member. They see that the root cause of the problem may be due to the tension prevailing in the rest of the family members. A family therapist will:

  • Teach the members of a family by telling them the difference between the functioning of a normal family and the difference that is observed in their family.
  • Help the entire family to focus less on the person who is being identified with an ailment and pay attention on easing the hassles that are faced by the patient.
  • Help in identifying the anxieties and conflicts by developing strategies for resolving the situation.
  • Develop a sense of strength amongst the family members for solving the problems in groups.
  • Teach various ways to handle the problems and understand the cause of problems without any ambiguities.

The severity of the problem and the willingness of all the members for participating in the session will decide the number of sessions that are required for treating the ailment. The therapist and the family member will set goals for tackling the situation and decide the time required for doing the same. All the sessions may not require participation of all the family members every single time.

Medications to Treat Adjustment Disorder (AD) or Situational Depression

Medications may be of great help in certain cases. Through medication, the symptoms of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts can be tackled. The Symptoms are treated using anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications. Medications may be needed along with the therapy sessions and it is advisable to continue with the medication. When medications are stopped instantly, it may interfere with daily activities and result in withdrawal symptoms.

How can I Help Myself?

Self Help Tips for Handling Adjustment Disorder (AD) or Situational Depression

The impact of anxiety or stress can be reduced, if you are suffering from adjustment disorder. The following self-help strategies may of great use:

  • Exercise. Aerobic exercise can help in releasing tension and combat stress as well. It also helps in increasing the serotonin levels that are essential for boosting the mood. Aim of doing a workout session of 150 minutes every week. This may often make you feel tired or out of breath. Brisk walking may be the best alternative.
  • Relaxation as well as a controlled breathing can help in getting rid of the bad thoughts and maintain an emotional balance. Using various exercises for relaxing the body and mind is extremely important. Activities like Pilates and yoga can help you in unwinding from the situation.
  • A balanced diet. Changing the diet pattern can help in easing the symptoms. Anxiety can increase with an increase consumption of caffeine. Caffeine interferes with your sleeping pattern and elevates your heart rate that can make you feel more tired to manage the symptoms of anxiety.
  • Drinking and smoking. Consuming alcohol and smoking may worsen the symptoms of anxiety. Avoid smoking and practice drinking in moderation.
  • Join support groups for adjustment disorder. Joining a group therapy session is a unique way to meet people who are in the same boat and are looking to get rid of the problems. You can share your experiences, get support and follow a pattern to alleviate the stressful situations gradually.
  • Understand the associated anxiety and stress completely. It is necessary to understand the cause and effect of anxiety to recover from it. There is an array of books that educate you about Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Such books can help you in tackling the situations and managing the stressful events as well.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:


Last Modified On: May 3, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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