Adjustment Disorders In Children

Big changes in life can be stressful, especially when those changes have the potential to be viewed negatively. When your child undergoes a stressful life change it can result in more stress than the child is able to cope with. If this happenss, your child might experience what is known as an adjustment disorder.



What Experiences Can Trigger An Adjustment Disorder In Children?



A wide number of experiences can cause an adjustment disorder in children. Every child is different and with that they have different abilities to cope with stress. That being said there are a number of common things that can trigger adjustment disorder in children.


  • Big moves
  • Changes in financial status
  • Adoption
  • Death of a family member
  • Parents fighting
  • Serious injuries
  • Traumatic events



It is important to note while traumatic events may lead to adjustment disorder, the condition is separate from post traumatic stress disorder.



Symptoms Of Adjustment Disorders



To help determine whether someone is suffering from an adjustment disorder it is important to know the symptoms. We will cover the most common symptoms but just like many other psychiatric disorders, different people will experience different symptoms. Symptoms are categorized three ways: Behavioral, physical, and pscyhosocial symptoms.



Behavioral Symptoms Of Adjustment Disorders



  • Abnormal amount of crying
  • Easy to provoke
  • Frequent arguing
  • Ignoring social obligations
  • Ignoring educational obligations
  • Poor performance in school
  • Skipping school
  • Acting out such as vandalism or disobedience
  • Suicidal ideation



Physical Symptoms of Adjustment Disorders In Children



  • Trouble with digesting or eating food
  • Decreased appetite
  • Trouble sleeping, changes in sleep times



Psychosocial Symptoms of Adjustment Disorders In Children



  • Sadness
  • Lower levels of self-esteem
  • Difficulties making decisions
  • Feelings of social isolation
  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Lack of the ability to feel joy
  • Lack of the ability to feel pleasure
  • Hopelessness



Treatment For Adjustment Disorders In Children



Treatment isn’t necessary for all anxiety disorders. If a stressor is removed from your child’s life, typically they will show signs of recovering from said disorder. Time is the best treatment as long as your child is safe at home and their life is not severely impacted.



However, it is important to bring your child to the doctor if one or more of several factors present. The most important reason to take your child to a doctor is if the adjustment disorder is causing suicidal ideation or risky behavior. It is also important to take your child to a doctor if symptoms don’t go away.



Depending on the doctor you go to, treatment for adjustment disorders can take a number of forms. One of the forms it can take is inpatient psychiatric treatment. This is typically only done in extreme cases or cases where suicidal ideation presents itself. In most cases medication will be used as part of the treatment. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are two of the most common.



Whether your child receives inpatient or outpatient treatment for adjustment disorders, part of the treatment will be psychotherapy. Your child will be prompted to talk about what has happened and to think it through for themselves. A therapist, social worker, or counselor will help them to get back to their regular life.



How You Can Help Your Child



Besides getting your child professional help there are steps you can take to help them with their adjustment disorder. You can start by helping to ensure that the stressors that caused the disorder are removed or reduced. And while all parents want to make sure their children feel safe, it is important that you reiterate the fact that your children are safe in their home.



Do your best to promote a healthy and regular lifestyle. For example, try to get your child to engage in social events, eat regularly, and enjoy themselves.



The professional that your child sees will be able to give you more detailed tips on how to help your child with their adjustment disorder.



Adjustment disorders can be serious conditions when they present in children. It is important that you recognize the symptoms and work with your child to help counter them. Seeking professional help is never a bad idea. Even for minor symptoms a professional can help your child to get through them quicker.