Anxiety Disorder or Adjustment Disorder

There are plenty of people out there who don’t like change. And that totally makes sense. Most of us are very much creatures of habit. But if you have an anxiety disorder, change can be a trigger that risks sending you into a dreaded downward spiral. At least that is the case for me. I hate change. Yet when I’m looking at how to manage my mental health, it is important for me to differentiate between my anxiety and something called adjustment disorder. 

Adjustment disorder is very common. According to Microsoft Bing searches, it has over 200,000 cases diagnosed each year. But what is it you might ask? 

It is a condition where an individual has a negative reaction to a significant change in their life. It doesn’t matter whether it is a positive or negative change, what is more important is whether it causes significant stress or not for the individual. So for example, starting a new job can be a good thing, but it can also be stressful. The same thing is true for any other major change, such as marriage, having a child, buying a new house, getting divorced, having financial trouble, or losing a friend. 

Yet the difference between the anxiety I feel when faced with change and adjustment disorder is that adjustment disorder looks at the time after the change. Specifically, according to the DSM-V, one of the criteria is that it occurs within three months of the event. This is different than my anxiety, which can occur before or after an event. Another difference is that my anxiety is generalized, meaning it is nebulous and not always easy to attach to any single event or cause. By contrast, adjustment disorder is typically clearly tied to a specific event, what the DSM-V calls an identifiable stressor. 

Anxiety and adjustment disorder can co-occur, typically presenting with stress over the identifiable stressor along with symptoms such as worry, jitteriness, or separation anxiety. Considering this, I can recognize that my issues are purely the result of my anxiety disorder and not an adjustment disorder, but it is nevertheless good to know the difference.

And hopefully, this post has helped you if change is something you are struggling with as well.

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