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Mental Health and Adjustment Disorder

How Do I Find Out if I Have Adjustment Disorder?

If you suspect you may have an adjustment disorder, see your doctor. If symptoms are present, your doctor will perform a complete physical exam and ask questions about your medical history. Although there are no imaging or lab tests to specifically diagnose an adjustment disorder, the doctor may use some tests -- such as blood tests or imaging studies like CT or MRI scans -- to rule out physical illness as the cause of your symptoms. Your doctor will also look for other mental illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, major depression, or an anxiety disorder.

Your doctor bases his or her diagnosis of adjustment disorder on your report of the intensity and duration of symptoms -- including any problems with daily functioning caused by the symptoms. In general, an adjustment disorder is suspected if the level of distress is more intense than would normally be expected, given the stressor, or if the symptoms interfere with normal functioning.

If adjustment disorder is suspected, your doctor will likely refer you to a psychiatrist or psychologist, mental health professionals who are specially trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses.

How Is Adjustment Disorder Treated?

Psychotherapy (a type of counseling) is the most common treatment for adjustment disorder. Therapy helps the person understand how the stressor has affected his or her life. It also helps the person develop better coping skills. Support groups can also be helpful by allowing the person to discuss his or her concerns and feelings with people who are coping with the same stress. In some cases, medication may be used to help control anxiety symptoms or sleeping problems.

If you have symptoms of adjustment disorder, it is very important that you seek medical care. Major depression may develop if you don't get treatment. Plus, you may develop a substance abuse problem if you turn to alcohol or drugs to help you cope with stress and anxiety.

Most people with adjustment disorder recover completely. In fact, a person who is treated for adjustment disorder may learn new skills that actually allow him or her to function better than before the symptoms began.

Can Adjustment Disorder Be Prevented?

There is no known way to prevent adjustment disorder. However, strong family and social support can help a person work through a particularly stressful situation or event. The best prevention is early treatment, which can reduce the severity and duration of symptoms, and teach new coping skills.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on October 10, 2012

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