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 to connect with care.
Every day, Veterans from all military service branches and eras connect with proven resources and effective treatments for dealing with an adjustment disorder. Here’s how to take the next step: the one that’s right for you.
Read VA's latest coronavirus information. If you have flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath, please call before you visit your local medical center or clinic. If you have an appointment, consider making it a telehealth appointment.
New to VA? Apply for health care benefits.
- Getting started is simple. Create a free account online to help ease your enrollment process. To prepare to apply for VA health care in person, by telephone, or by mail, explore VA’s “How to Apply” page.
- Not sure whether you are eligible for VA health care benefits? Read about eligibility for VA health care.
- Unsure of what kind of help you need? Call 1-877-222-VETS (1-877-222-8387) to find the right resources to meet your needs, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET. If you have hearing loss, call TTY: 1-800-877-8339.
- Veterans’ family members and caregivers can see whether they qualify for VA medical benefits as a spouse, surviving spouse, dependent child, or caregiver. Explore family and caregiver health benefits.
Already enrolled in VA and interested in mental health support? Schedule a mental health appointment.
- If you’re already enrolled and using VA health care, the fastest way to schedule VA appointments is to call the VA facility where you want to receive care.
- With VA Appointments tools, you can schedule some VA health care appointments online, view details about upcoming appointments, and organize your health care calendar.
- If you’re not using VA medical services, contact your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center to talk about your needs.
What about other options at VA? VA offers a variety of tools and resources.
- The Veteran Training online self-help portal for overcoming everyday challenges includes modules on managing anger, developing parenting and problem-solving skills, and more.
- Mental health apps for Veterans cover a variety of topics, ranging from PTSD to anger management to quitting smoking.
- VA TeleMental Health connects you with a VA mental health provider through a computer or mobile device in your home or at your nearest VA health facility. You can learn more about this option from your local VA medical center.
- Vet Centers provide support, counseling, and readjustment services for Veterans and active duty service members (including members of the National Guard and Reserve) who have served on active military duty in any combat theater or area of hostility or have experienced a military sexual trauma. Find a Vet Center near you or call 1-877-WAR-VETS (1-877-927-8387) to talk with a fellow combat Veteran about your experiences, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
What about support beyond VA?
There’s a whole community of support ready to help with whatever you’re going through. Use this tool to find resources near you.
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.