What is it?
What to look for
Psychotherapeutic: Talk therapy is extremely effective in treating adjustment disorder. A therapist might encourage your child to express emotions in a supportive environment and in a constructive fashion, or suggest that a typical reaction to stress has gotten out of hand but is within his power to control. Another goal of the therapy is to teach him healthier ways of dealing with future stressful situations. Since adjustment disorders often affect the whole family, some sessions might include you. Group therapy can also be helpful. A few sessions are usually sufficient for treatment, though occasionally it might take months.
Pharmacological: Your child’s doctor may prescribe low doses of anti-anxiety or even neurolepticmedication to help with anxiety and behavior problems. Antidepressants may also be prescribed to treat depressive or suicidal thoughts. In most cases pharmacological treatment is short-lived.
Other disorders to look out for
Frequently asked questions
Adjustment disorder is, by definition, triggered by an event the child perceives to be traumatic, but it’s unknown why some kids are vulnerable while others are much more resilient. Some suggest that the disorder may be a “pathological extreme” of what is otherwise a quite normal coping process in other people.
Will my child grow out of it?
Yes. If the symptoms your child is manifesting have lasted longer than 6 months, it’s not considered adjustment disorder. But since the anxiety, depression and acting out can disrupt their lives, as well as your family’s, treatment is preferable than waiting it out. And without treatment a child is more likely to have the same kind of unhealthy response to future painful events, rather than developing a better approach to dealing with stress.
Is it dangerous?
It can be. Adolescents with adjustment disorder can be prone to risky behaviors, including violence, alcohol and substance abuse, and even suicide.
Does medication help?Medication may be prescribed to alleviate some severe symptoms of anxiety or depression, but psychotherapy is generally considered the most effective way of treating adjustment disorder.