How to deal with stress response syndrome in adults

stress response

Adjustment disorders in adults are less common than in children and teenagers, but they can occur in people of all age groups. It is a severe stress response syndrome that some people may experience after a stressful event or life change.

Adults with this stress response syndrome can show symptoms of depression, anxiety, and disturbances of emotions. One may also refer to it as situational depression, but they are not the same medical conditions.

This brief blog will give you an overview of the illness, its symptoms, types, and treatment options.

An Overview of Illness

Adjustment disorder comes under extreme emotional and behavioral reactions to a stressful life event within three months. An individual can experience an abnormal response of a high-level emotional disturbance than expected due to a specific situation. The stress level can cause severe symptoms that can affect the person mentally and physically. Such events may include:

  • divorce or separation
  • moving home
  • the birth of a child or sibling
  • the loss of a loved one
  • moving to a new school
  • a severe illness or injury
  • retirement
  • marital difficulties
  • losing a job
  • financial difficulties
  • a natural disaster or traumatic event

Symptoms of Adjustment disorder

The mental and physical symptoms linked to adjustment disorder typically occur during or right after an individual experience a stressful event relevant to the person. While the condition usually strikes no longer than six months, the symptoms are likely to continue if the stressor (the reason behind stress) is not removed. Some individuals have only one symptom, while others may experience two or more symptoms.

The psychological symptoms of adjustment disorders may include:

  • anxiousness
  • rebellious or impulsive actions
  • crying
  • feeling of hopelessness, sadness, or being trapped
  • withdrawn attitude
  • loss of self-esteem
  • lack of concentration
  • suicidal thoughts or behavior

There is only one type of adjustment disorder associated with physical and psychological symptoms. The physical symptoms may include:

  • insomnia
  • fatigue
  • muscle cramps or trembling
  • indigestion
  • body pain or soreness

The symptoms largely depend upon the type. Here are the six adjustment disorder types and their symptoms:

  • Adjustment disorder with depressed mood: A person diagnosed with this type tends to experience feelings of hopelessness and sadness associated with crying. These people find it challenging to enjoy the activities they used to love doing formerly.
  • Adjustment disorder with anxiety: The symptoms may include feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and worried. Individuals with this adjustment disorder may also experience problems with concentration and memory. For children, the diagnosis of this condition is usually associated with separation anxiety from parents or loved ones.
  • Adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety & depressed mood: The symptoms include depression and anxiety.
  • Adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct: Symptoms of this type primarily involve behavioral issues such as driving recklessly or starting fights unnecessarily. Teens with this medical condition may steal or vandalize property. Also, they may begin to miss school or public gatherings.
  • Adjustment disorder with emotional disturbance and conduct: The symptoms may include anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems.
  • Unspecified Adjustment disorder: People diagnosed with unspecified adjustment disorder have symptoms not associated with the other types of this medical condition. It often includes physical symptoms or problems concerning friends, family members, work, or school.

Types of Adjustment Disorder

There are six types of adjustment disorder depending upon the primary accompanying symptoms. People can experience the following types:

  • anxiety: feeling worried, nervous, jittery, or experiencing fear of separation
  • depressed mood: feeling hopeless, depressed, or tearful
  • disturbance of conduct: violation people’s rights, societal norms, and rules
  • anxiety & depressed mood: a combination of symptoms of adjustment disorder with anxiety and depressed mood
  • with emotional disturbance and conduct: a combination of all the types as mentioned earlier of adjustment disorder
  • unspecified: signs different from the categories mentioned above

Adjustment stress response Disorder Treatment

Before getting the treatment, you need to ensure that you have this medical condition only. To get a clinical diagnosis of an adjustment disorder, an individual must meet the following criteria:

  • having more stress than ordinary in response to a particular stressor, or anxiety that may cause issues with relationships, at work or in school, or experiencing both of these criteria
  • experiencing behavioral or psychological symptoms within three months of an identifiable stressor occurring several times in your life
  • symptoms that are not the result of any other clinical diagnosis
  • the improvement of symptoms with a period of six months after the stressor or stressors are removed

If you are diagnosed with adjustment disorder, you would probably need a treatment that may benefit you. You may either need only a short-term remedy or need to be treated over a prolonged period. Usually, one can treat adjustment disorder with therapy, medications, or a compelling combination.


Therapy is an excellent treatment option for an adjustment disorder. Your medical healthcare professional may recommend you to see a mental healthcare provider. However, if your health expert thinks that your medical condition requires medication, they may ask you to visit a psychiatrist.

Going to therapy may help you achieve an average level of functioning. Therapists tend to offer you emotional support and can also assist you in understanding the causes of your adjustment disorder. This method is likely to help you develop skills that can further teach you the skill to cope with stressful situations.

Several types of therapies help treat adjustment disorders. These therapies include:

  • crisis intervention (emergency psychological care)
  • psychotherapy (also known as counseling or talk therapy)
  • support groups
  • family and group therapies
  • interpersonal psychotherapy, or IPT (a short-term psychotherapy treatment)
  • cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT focuses on problem-solving by changing unproductive and concerning thinking and behaviors


Some people with this medical condition also benefit from taking prescribed medications. Medicines are likely to lessen some adjustment disorder symptoms, such as depression, insomnia, and anxiety. These medications may include:

  • benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax) and lorazepam (Ativan)
  • nonbenzodiazepine anxiolytics, including gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • SNRIs or SSRIs, such as venlafaxine (Effexor XR) or sertraline (Zoloft)

Bottom Line

Adjustment disorder is an extreme human reaction to a stressful life event or change significant to an individual. It can affect anyone belonging to any age group. Changes to family structures, moving, or divorce can also trigger this neurological condition. One may experience anxiety, depression, or hopelessness resulting in withdrawal from the society that can make one more tearful than usual with trouble sleeping.

Children and teenagers are more likely to show disruptive behavior. This medical condition can occur within three months of a stressful event and typically last for no longer than six months after the event.

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