What is an adjustment disorder?
Are you sad or upset after a life change or traumatic event — so much so that it’s been hard to function? Do you experience frequent anxiety because of something that happened recently? Have you or others noticed that you’re acting differently than before? If you or a Veteran you know faces these challenges, it may indicate an adjustment disorder.
Everyone experiences stressful situations. Sometimes continuing on with everyday life while dealing with this stress becomes very difficult. When daily activities or relationships start to suffer as a result, these may be the signs of an adjustment disorder.
“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.”
Some Veterans may experience an adjustment disorder after losing a loved one (a family member or someone from their unit), while others may experience the condition after separating from family, developing health problems, losing or changing jobs, or going through another 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. While you may wonder if your response to a stressful event is typical, try not to compare your reaction with how you think other people would have responded. Many people seem fine to others even when they're actually having a hard time with stress in private.
When considering whether you may have an adjustment disorder, the important distinction is if your response makes life difficult for you and affects your day-to-day functioning. Some adjustment disorder symptoms include:
- Anxiety and nervousness
- Trouble sleeping
- Having a hard time concentrating
- Reckless behavior
- Withdrawal or isolation from people and social activities
- Feeling trapped and/or without hope that your situation will improve
These symptoms are similar to those for other mental health challenges. A health or mental health professional can help accurately pinpoint the problem and let you know your options.
If you're having thoughts of suicide or thinking that others would be better off without you, it's important that you talk to someone right away. Call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, use the Veterans Crisis Line online chat service, or send a text message to the Veterans Crisis Line at 838255. These services offer free, confidential support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
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, regardless of your decision to seek treatment:
- 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 during the day.
- Practice relaxation methods, such as deep breathing or quiet time alone.
- Make time for a hobby or other activity you enjoy.
- Talk with other Veterans, friends, or family with experiences similar to yours.
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 been treated successfully for adjustment disorders.
“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.”
Treatment for adjustment disorders usually involves counseling. Counseling can help you learn new ways of thinking, practice positive behaviors, and take active steps to cope with the challenges you face. Medications can also help with the symptoms of an adjustment disorder, such as anxiety or difficulty sleeping. Often, an adjustment disorder requires treatment for only a brief amount of time.
What can I do if I think I have an adjustment disorder?
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 these kind of difficulties are 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 doctor. Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does. If you feel comfortable enough with your physician, he or she may be able to help you find tools to manage an adjustment disorder even without direct experience with Veterans.
- 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 adviser
Explore these resources for more information about adjustment disorders among Veterans.
Learn more about what you can do if you are experiencing specific concerns related to adjustment disorders, such as problems with family and relationships, transitioning from service, alcohol or drug problems, and anger and irritability.
Moving Forward: Overcoming Life’s Challenges
Moving Forward is a free online educational and life-coaching program that teaches problem-solving skills to help you better handle life’s challenges. While it’s designed to be especially helpful for Veterans, Service members, and their families, Moving Forward teaches skills that can be useful to anyone with stressful problems.
If you are a combat Veteran, you can 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. In addition, any Veteran who was sexually traumatized while serving in the military is eligible to receive counseling regardless of gender or era of service.
VA Medical Center Facility Locator
VA provides world-class health care to eligible Veterans. Most Veterans qualify for cost-free health care services, although some Veterans must pay modest copays for health care or prescriptions. Explore your eligibility for health care using VA's Health Benefits Explorer tool and find out more about the treatment options available to you.