It’s not easy being a teen.
It’s a time of upheaval, a time when interests, friendships and relationships suddenly change. Combine that with a body which frequently seems to be rebelling, it’s a tough minefield for anyone to go through. For some people, the changes – especially if they’re traumatic, like the death of a friend or a loved one – can be too much to bear, leading to behaviors which are depressive or self-harming. This is called adjustment disorder (AD), a stress-related mental disorder.
Every teen worries about change. It’s normal, and the kind of emotional disruption caused by major life changes – a new school, a new parent, the death of a friend – are perfectly normal.
That’s part of the reason AD can be a challenge to diagnose in a teen, much like many other mood disorders.
Unlike normal stress and anxiety, however, AD includes a variety of harmful behavioral problems, disrupting school and home life. When combined with the depressive and anxious symptoms it also causes, AD is a serious psychiatric disorder which benefits from professional adjustment disorder treatment.
Typically, AD isn’t a long-lasting disorder; Mayo Clinic reports the acute form of the disorder lasts six months or less once the source of stress is removed. However, there’s also a chronic form where AD’s symptoms last for longer than six months.
There are multiple types of adjustment disorder. AD can occur with depressed and anxious moods – or with both. Conduct disorder is often a feature of AD as well. Teens with this variety of AD may engage in aggressive behavior, such as starting fights in school, or they may engage in reckless behavior by experimenting with drugs and alcohol or driving recklessly. Other types of AD combine depression, anxiety and behavioral problems.