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Coping with change isn’t always easy. Even if the change is positive, it can make you feel uncomfortable and even stressed just because it’s different than the norm. When a person experiences intense physical and/or psychological symptoms after a major life event, they could be experiencing what is knows as an adjustment disorders.

What Is an Adjustment Disorder?

Stress is a regular part of life. It helps you maintain a certain level of alertness that gives you energy and motivation to tackle challenging tasks. But sometimes, stress can get out of hand. An overload of stress hormones can throw your whole system out of alignment.

People with adjustment disorders experience stronger emotions than they would expect after dealing with a tough situation. They struggle more than usual when dealing with certain changes.


Adjustment disorders involve a number of symptoms. They symptoms are powerful enough to interfere with an individual’s everyday life.

For example:

• Feel sad or hopeless
• Lose interest in things that they used to enjoy
• Cry frequently
• Experience anxiety or nervousness
• Not feel like eating
• Have trouble concentrating
• Feel overwhelmed
• Isolate themselves
• Avoid their responsibilities and obligations
• Take impulsive actions
• Experience muscle twitches
• Have digestive distress
• Experience physical aches and pains
• Contemplate suicide

These symptoms typically begin within three months of the event. They don’t usually last for more than six months. But adjustment disorders may persist, especially if the trigger continues or new stressors come up.

Adjustment Disorders with Elderly Adults

Stressful events in your life increase your risk of developing adjustment disorders. Some examples of these events include:

• Death of a loved one
• Loss of a home/moving
• Losing/Giving up a Drivers License
• Becoming disabled
• Experiencing financial hardship
• Having a new medical condition/diagnosis

Elderly adults are at a particularly high risk for developing an adjustment disorder because they often experience several of these life changes at once. They can be triggered by retiring, dealing with a fixed and limited income and/or becoming diagnosed with a chronic illness at once. One in five older adults who end up in a hospital for acute care suffer from adjustment disorders.

When thinking about adjustment disorders, it’s important to understand that elderly adults are usually dealing with multiple stressors with fewer resources than they may have had at an earlier age. As we get older, life can feel more uncertain. Combined with day-to-day stress, that uncertainty can make people feel lost and insecure.

Other events, such as moving to an Assisted Living facility can exacerbate the problem. Often adult children believe that moving to an Assisted Living facility should be the answer to all their parents problems. The move is not viewed through their parents eyes. Even the nicest of facilities don’t feel like or replace home. Moving to a facility with all new people and new rules can be totally overwhelming to seniors.

People who have suffered from a psychological condition in the past are more likely to develop an adjustment order than those who don’t have a prior psychiatric history. Almost half of patients with adjustment disorders also have another psychological illness.

Types of Adjustment Disorders and Treatments

There are several types of adjustment disorders. Each presents with different symptoms. However, sometimes the symptoms overlap.

Adjustment disorder with depressed mood is usually associated with sadness and bouts of tears. People with this disorder may lose interest in the things that once fulfilled them.

Adjustment disorder with anxiety can make you feel easily overwhelmed, worried and concerned. It may lead to memory and concentration problems. Sometimes, this condition is overlooked in elderly people who are already suffering from cognitive decline.

Adjustment disorder with combined anxiety and depressed mood: This combination can leave you feeling with an underlying sense of nervousness, heaviness and sorrow.

Adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct involves behavioral issues. People with this condition may act reckless or do things without thinking about the consequences.

Adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct can encompass many symptoms at once. Someone who suffers from this might act out, feel depressed and experience anxiety.

Some types of adjustment disorders are unspecified. The symptoms don’t fall into any of the specific categories above.

Therapy is an essential approach to treating adjustment disorders. Therapists or counselors can help you understand why you’re feeling the way you are. They can provide the emotional support that you need while you express your worry, guilt, anger or frustration. They’ll also help you come up with healthy ways of coping with those feelings.

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help people shift the way that they think and behave. This approach can cut down on intrusive thoughts and unproductive ruminating. Some other types of treatments that can help people with adjustment disorders include interpersonal therapy, goal-directed therapy and problem-solving therapy.

In some cases, medication can help reduce symptoms of depression or anxiety. Medication could also be beneficial if you have a co-occurring mental illness.

At Blue Moon Senior Counseling, we specialize in treating adjustment disorders in adults and elderly adults as well as other psychological conditions. We work hard to understand the challenges that seniors are facing from their perspective, and work with them to help them feel and get better.

Contact Us Today or Call (630) 896-7160