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Adjustment Disorder


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Melissa deployed twice, was shot at, and saw friends become injured at the hands of enemy forces. When she came home, she had to readjust to being with her family again—a task that was harder than she anticipated. She also found she had changed and preferred to be isolated most of the time. Find out how she reached out to VA and got help.

What is an adjustment disorder?

Are you sad or upset after a life change or traumatic event—so sad or upset that it’s been hard to function? Do you have frequent anxiety because of something that happened recently? Have you or others noticed that you’re acting differently? You or a Veteran you know may be dealing with an adjustment disorder.

Everyone experiences stressful situations in their lives but sometimes an adjustment disorder can make dealing with the stress so difficult it begins to affect everyday activities.

Some Veterans may experience an adjustment disorder after losing a loved one or someone from their unit. Others may experience an adjustment disorder after separation from family, developing health problems, losing or changing jobsor some other major change in their lives.

What are the signs of an adjustment disorder?

Stressful situations can be challenging for anyone to manage and everyone handles stress differently. You may wonder if your response to a stressful event is typical for most people. Try not to focus on how other people may have handled situations similar to yours. The important thing to consider is if your response to a stressful event makes life difficult for you and affects your day-to-day functioning. Some adjustment disorder symptoms include:

“It felt like I came back and all of a sudden didn’t have a safety net – that person in the military who always had my back; all while trying to find where I fit into civilian society.”

What is the treatment for an adjustment disorder?

You don’t just have to live with an adjustment disorder. There are steps you can take to help get yourself on a better track and manage your symptoms:

  • Exercise regularly—physical activity can boost your mood and clear your mind
  • Eat healthy meals—good nutrition helps your body and your mind
  • Try to get a good night’s sleep—getting quality sleep can help you feel better
  • Practice relaxation methods, such as deep breathing or quiet time alone
  • Make time for a hobby or other activity you enjoy

Treatment for an adjustment disorder can lead to positive and meaningful changes in symptoms and quality of life. Veterans of all ages and eras have received help for adjustment disorders—and treatment works.

Treatments for adjustment disorders usually involve counseling. Counseling can help you learn new ways of thinking, practice positive behaviors, and take active steps to cope with the challenges you are facing. Medications can also help with the symptoms of an adjustment disorder, such as anxiety or difficulty sleeping. Oftentimes, an adjustment disorder requires treatment for only a brief amount of time.

What can I do if I think I have an adjustment disorder?

“Just trying to avoid it, hoping it would go away, wasn’t working. My family and I had to do something. It was worth the effort to keep on trying to get better.”

Your close friends and family may be the first to notice that you’re having a tough time. You may want to talk to them about what you’re experiencing, and they may be able to provide support. If you are experiencing symptoms of an adjustment disorder, you may want to see a professional for further assessment. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you will begin to feel better.

Take the next step – Make the connection.

Every day, Veterans who served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard connect with proven resources and effective treatments for dealing with adjustment disorders. If an adjustment disorder is affecting how you are feeling or getting in the way of your relationships, work, or daily activities, you may want to reach out for support. Consider connecting with:

  • Your family doctor: Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does
  • A mental health professional, such as a therapist
  • Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center: VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans
  • A spiritual or religious advisor

Explore these resources for more information about adjustment disorders in Veterans.

Learn more about the possible associations between adjustment disorders and other issues such as problems with family and relationships, transitioning from service, alcohol or drug problems, and anger and irritability.

VA Medical Center Facility Locator
This website will allow you to search for VA programs located near you. If you are eligible to receive care through the Veterans Health Administration, you can enroll in one of VA’s treatment programs.

Vet Center
If you are a combat Veteran or experienced any sexual trauma during your military service, bring your DD214 to your local Vet Center and speak with a counselor or therapist—many of whom are Veterans themselves—for free, without an appointment, and regardless of your enrollment status with VA.

Listen: Browse the video gallery to find stories most relevant to you. Locate: Find resources near you that can help get your life back on track.