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Mental Health Center

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Mental Health and Adjustment Disorder

What Are the Symptoms of an Adjustment Disorder/Stress Response Syndrome?

An adjustment disorder/stress response syndrome can have a wide variety of symptoms that are changes from someone's usual self, which may include:

  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Sadness
  • Frequent crying
  • Anxiety (nervousness)
  • Worry
  • Headaches or stomachaches
  • Palpitations (an unpleasant sensation of irregular or forceful beating of the heart)
  • Withdrawal or isolation from people and social activities
  • A new pattern of absence from work or school
  • New and uncharacteristic dangerous or destructive behavior, such as fighting, reckless driving, and vandalism
  • Changes in appetite, either loss of appetite, or overeating
  • Problems sleeping
  • Feeling tired or without energy
  • Increase in the use of alcohol or other drugs

Symptoms in children and teens tend to be more behavioral in nature, such as skipping school, fighting, or acting out. Adults, on the other hand, tend to experience more emotional symptoms, such as sadness and anxiety.

How Common Is an Adjustment Disorder/Stress Response Syndrome?

Adjustment disorder/stress response syndrome is very common and can affect anyone, regardless of gender, age, race, or lifestyle. Although an adjustment disorder can occur at any age, it is more common at times in life when major transitions occur, such as adolescence, mid-life, and late-life.

How Do I Find Out if I Have an Adjustment Disorder/Stress Response Syndrome?

If you suspect you may have an adjustment disorder/stress response syndrome, see your doctor. If symptoms are present, your doctor may perform a 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 or other medical causes of changes in mood or behavior (such as head trauma) 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/stress response syndrome 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/stress response syndrome 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/stress response syndrome 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.

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