Adjustment disorder is a reaction to stress and can persist for more than a few months after the stressful event.
Most people struggle to cope with stress and change at times, but an adjustment disorder refers to significant distress that persists for more than a few months after the stressful event. This reaction to stress can interfere with everyday tasks such as studying and working, with the enjoyment of life in general.
The main symptoms of an adjustment disorder in children and youths could be emotional or behavioural, or a combination of both, and include:
While they can resemble and be just as distressing or disruptive as symptoms of depression, anxiety or a behavioural disorder, the symptoms of an adjustment disorder are generally not as severe.
The main cause of an adjustment disorder is a recent stressful life event, but individual stress responses vary significantly.
An event that one person finds overwhelming may seem trivial to another. The temperament, coping skills, past experiences, current developmental stage and social support systems of children and youths contribute to their stress management ability or their ability to respond to stress.
Sources of stress also differ in duration, intensity and magnitude.
Common Sources of Stress for Children or Adolescents
Common sources of stress for children or adolescents include:
Specific treatment by a clinician may not always be required. With support from family and friends or a counsellor, symptoms may go away in a few months. If symptoms are particularly distressing and debilitating, one or a combination of the following treatments may be helpful:
These therapies can help your child better understand what an adjustment disorder is and learn ways to manage the symptoms. One commonly used type of psychotherapy involves helping your child identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts and beliefs that contribute to how he or she is feeling. Your child will also learn skills for coping, problem-solving and anger or stress management.
It may also be helpful for parents or other family members to receive therapy to address parental or family issues that may affect the child’s ability to cope with his or her circumstances.
Typically, doctors do not prescribe medication to treat children or adolescents with an adjustment disorder. However, in some instances, certain medications may be prescribed in the short term. Talk to your child’s doctor if you have any queries or concerns about medication.
You can also help your child by being patient, understanding and supportive. Be encouraging and empathise with his or her challenges. Celebrate all small successes and be positive. If the source of stress is school-related, you can talk to your child’s teachers or school counsellors for help.
Visit Parent Hub, for more useful tips and guides to give your child a healthy start.
Download the Healthhub app on
Google Play or
Apple Store to access more health and wellness advice at your fingertips.
This article was last reviewed on
Wednesday, November 22, 2023
In partnership with