Stress & Adjustment Difficulties

Life is full of considerable challenges that can sometimes stretch our coping mechanisms. An adjustment difficulty or adjustment disorder refers to marked emotional distress and difficulty in functioning in day-to-day life during a major stressor, or within three months following a major life event. As we are all so individual, there are a variety of responses we may experience and many subtypes to categorise the disturbance you may feel in the wake of a life adjustment.

Adjustment disorder impacts people differently at different ages and can occur at any age. The causes and risk factors for adjustment disorder likely include a complex interplay of genetic, environmental, and physical risk factors working together.

Common types of stressors that can trigger adjustment disorder include:

  • Ending a relationship or marriage
  • Losing or changing jobs
  • Death of a loved one
  • Developing a serious, chronic illness
  • Being the victim of a crime
  • Major life changes – getting married, having a baby
  • Living through a natural disaster
  • Retirement

The symptoms of adjustment disorder do change from person to person, often wildly enough that a diagnosis of adjustment disorder is challenging. The one constant characteristic of adjustment disorder is the symptoms appearing within a certain time period after a major, stressful life event.

Behavioural Symptoms:

  • Frequent crying jags
  • Fighting with other people
  • Being unusually argumentative
  • Ignoring bills and other financial obligations
  • Avoiding friends, family, and loved ones
  • Poor work or school performance
  • Being late to work or school frequently
  • Excessive absenteeism
  • Vandalizing and destroying property

Psychosocial Symptoms:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of self-esteem
  • Feeling isolated, apart from others
  • Hopelessness
  • Inability to feel joy or pleasure
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Feeling “on-edge”
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed
  • Self-harm
  • Thoughts of suicide


Adjustment disorder is highly treatable and often responds well to psychotherapy. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy that is effective in treating adjustment disorder.

We are Beck Institute CBT Certified Clinicians that demonstrate our expertise as leading practitioners of the most evidence-based psychotherapy treatment in the world.

Our psychologists in Sehat Psychology can help with adjustment difficulties. Please contact Sehat Psychology on (08) 7079 9529 or via our Online Contact Form for more information on anger management or to make an appointment.

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