Adjustment Disorder With Depressed Mood

Adjustment disorder with depressed mood is a mild, reactive, depressed mood. It is one of six adjustment disorders recognized by the American Psychiatric Association and listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Other adjustment disorders include...

  • adjustment disorder with anxiety
  • adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood
  • adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct
  • adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct
  • adjustment disorder unspecified.

The depressed mood typically only lasts a few months. The disorder is diagnosed in females more often than in men.

The symptoms of this disorder are the same as those experienced with other clinical depressions...

  • sadness
  • emptiness
  • loss of interest and pleasure
  • irritability and anger
  • changes in appetite
  • sleep problems
  • restlessness
  • slow movement and thinking
  • fatigue
  • feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • poor concentration
  • thoughts about death and suicide.

What makes adjustment disorder with depressed mood different from other depressions?

A differences between this disorder and other depressive disorders is that the adjustment disorder symptoms begin following a specific stressor. The disorder occurs in response to some specific stressful situation or circumstance.

The stressor which causes the problem may be almost anything. Examples include...

  • marital conflict
  • divorce
  • financial problems
  • loss of a job
  • conflicts in a close friendship
  • having to move
  • having a close friend or family member diagnosed with a serious disease
  • being a victim of crime
  • experiencing a natural disaster.

The list could go on and on.

Although almost anyone would be "stressed out" by events such as these, the person experiencing an adjustment disorder such as this has more symptoms of depression than others who have experienced the same stressor.

The symptoms are usually milder than in other forms of clinical depression. Nevertheless, they are severe enough that they interfere with the person's ability to function normally.

A second difference between this disorder and other depressions is that the symptoms only last a short time after the stressful situation ends. Usually the symptoms decrease and disappear within a few months. If the symptoms last longer than six months, there is a problem other than adjustment disorder.

What is the treatment for this disorder?

Psychotherapy is helpful in treating an adjustment disorder with depressed mood. Cognitive psychotherapy is commonly used to treat this disorder.

Although medication may be used, it is not considered the main treatment.

During psychotherapy, emotional support is offered. Coping skills are taught and strengthened.

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