Addiction, more often than not, occurs in conjunction with a mental illness. Mental health conditions that are affected by or contribute to addiction include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more. Like many mental illnesses, the presence of adjustment disorder increases the likelihood that the patient may become addicted to drugs, alcohol, or both.
What Is Adjustment Disorder?
Adjustment disorder (also sometimes known as situational depression) is a mental health condition characterized by abnormal and unhealthy responses to an identifiable stressful event. People with this disorder have difficulty adapting to or coping with change and stress. This effect eventually results in negative behavioral and emotional symptoms, and ultimately, impairments in academic, social, and professional functioning.
Adjustment disorders manifest from external causes. However, it is the person’s own fears and perceptions that exacerbate the condition and make reactions to the external stressor(s) maladaptive. Adjustment disorders are rather common but do tend to occur more often in adult women than men (no evidence has been shown that there are gender differences in children).
Causes of Adjustment Disorder
Changes that proceed the onset of adjustment disorder includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Property loss (e.g., flood or fire)
- Experiencing a natural disaster
- Job loss or change
- Relationships changes
- Injuries and illnesses
- Loss of a loved one
- Pregnancy and giving birth
- Severe problems at school
- Parental fighting
There may be more than one cause precipitating the onset of adjustment disorder. For example, a person might lose his or her job, witness their marriage fall apart, and consequently become embattled in a bitter divorce or child custody case. Also, events may be recurrent, such as undergoing treatment for severe illness, such as cancer.
Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder
For a diagnosis of adjustment disorder, symptoms must occur within three months of the precipitating event and last less than six months after the event has ended.
Adjustment disorder may manifest a wide array of symptoms, but most often include the following:
- Depression and sadness
- Anxiety and agitation
- Difficulty with emotional regulation
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Nervousness and worry
- Mixed emotions
- Feelings of being overwhelmed
- Guilty feelings
- Suicidal ideations
- Trembling or twitching
- Physical complaints, such as pain
- Heart palpitations
Symptoms are often intense and can be exhausting to the patient. These symptoms can ultimately lead to negative and unpredictable actions, including the following:
- Rule, norm-breaking
- Violation of the rights of others
- Emotional and aggressive outbursts
- Aggressive conduct, fighting
- Irresponsible and reckless behavior, including substance use and promiscuity
- Social withdrawal and isolation from loved ones, hobbies, and activities
Behaviors that manifest from adjustment disorder tend to be self-destructive, impulsive, and reckless. In this state of mind, it is common for persons to turn to substance use as an effort to deal with the intense emotions they are experiencing. Moreover, substance use disorders are often linked to mental illness because the person is attempting to self-medicate, escape, or become numb to their feelings.
Adjustment disorders are related to a heightened risk of suicidality and may impede the progress of other health conditions. An adjustment disorder that continues long-term may develop into an even more severe mental illness, such as major depressive disorder.
Adjustment disorder may manifest while a person is experiencing other mental health conditions aside from addiction. The American Psychiatric Association listed the following as possible comorbid disorders:
- Obsessive-compulsive disorders
- Phobias and panic disorder
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- Depressive disorders
- Social anxiety disorder
Treatment for Adjustment Disorder and Addiction
The good news is, adjustment disorders are short-lived. However, as noted, without treatment, they may progress to more severe and chronic mental disturbances. This is especially true if addiction exists and it is not effectively treated in conjunction with the condition.
Treating for co-occurring diagnoses should be integrated and comprehensive. Moreover, each condition exacerbates the other, so treating one alone is less likely to yield an overall positive effect and prevent future relapse back into substance abuse.
Treatment of these disorders may include detox, psychotherapy, behavioral therapy, family therapy, participation in support groups, medication-assistant therapies, and holistic approaches such as meditation and music and art therapy.
The goals of therapy often include improved reliance on social support, increased coping and decision-making skills, and the employment of relaxation techniques.
Younger patients may be helped, in particular, by family therapy. Prescription medication may sometimes be used to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Ultimately, most people overcome adjustment disorder and live symptom-free if they are otherwise mentally healthy and have a reliable social support system in place.
Just Believe Recovery is a specialized addiction treatment center that aims to address all aspects of our clients’ health and mental and emotional well-being. We are equipped to effectively treat all forms of mental illness in conjunction with addiction and provide clients with the tools and support they need to experience long-lasting sobriety and wellness.
If you or someone you love is suffering from addiction and a mental health disorder, contact us today and find out how we can help!