Skip to content

Cancer Health Center

Font Size

Adjustment to Cancer: Anxiety and Distress (PDQ®): Supportive care - Patient Information [NCI] - Adjustment Disorders

Adjustment disorders may cause serious problems in daily life.

An adjustment disorder occurs when the patient's reaction to a stressful event:

Recommended Related to Cancer

Help for the Caregiver

Caregivers have a very hard job and it's normal to need help. Although caregiver assessments are used to plan support for the family caregiver, they are not always done. It's important for caregivers to ask for help when they need it. Many people who were once caregivers say they did too much on their own. Some wished that they had asked for help sooner. The best time to find out where to get help is when the patient is diagnosed with cancer. All through caregiving, it's important to watch for...

Read the Help for the Caregiver article > >

  • Is more severe than the expected amount of distress.
  • Affects relationships or causes problems at home or work.
  • Includes symptoms of depression and anxiety or other emotional, social, or behavioral problems.

Causes of adjustment disorders in cancer patients include the following:

  • Diagnosis.
  • Treatment.
  • Recurrence.
  • Side effects of treatment.

An adjustment disorder usually begins within three months of a stressful event and lasts no longer than six months after the event is over. Some patients may have a chronic adjustment disorder because they have many causes of distress, one right after another.

An adjustment disorder may become a more serious mental disorder such as major depression. This is more common in children and adolescents than in adults. (See the PDQ summary on Pediatric Supportive Care for more information.)

Counseling can help patients with adjustment disorders.

Individual (one-to-one) and group counseling have been shown to help cancer patients with adjustment disorders. Counseling may include treatment that focuses on the patient's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The following may help patients cope:

  • Relaxation training.
  • Biofeedback.
  • Mental imagery exercises.
  • Problem-solving.
  • Plan for events that may happen in the future.
  • Change beliefs that are not true.
  • Distraction.
  • Thought stopping.
  • Positive thoughts.

Counseling may be combined with antianxiety medicine or antidepressants.

Counseling should be tried before medicine. Some patients are not helped by counseling or have a more severe mental health problem, such as severe anxiety or depression. These patients may be helped by an antianxiety or antidepressant medicine along with counseling. (See the PDQ summary on Depression for more information.)

Current Clinical Trials

Check NCI's list of cancer clinical trials for U.S. supportive and palliative care trials about adjustment disorder that are now accepting participants. The list of trials can be further narrowed by location, drug, intervention, and other criteria.

General information about clinical trials is also available from the NCI Web site.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: September 04, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
    1
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Colorectal cancer cells
    A common one in both men and women.
    Lung cancer xray
    See it in pictures, plus read the facts.
     
    sauteed cherry tomatoes
    Fight cancer one plate at a time.
    Ovarian cancer illustration
    Do you know the symptoms?
     
    Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
    Blog
    what is your cancer risk
    HEALTH CHECK
     
    colorectal cancer treatment advances
    Video
    breast cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    prostate cancer overview
    SLIDESHOW
    lung cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
     
    ovarian cancer overview slideshow
    SLIDESHOW
    Actor Michael Douglas
    Article