Adjustment Disorder: Keeping the Faith Through Difficult Times

Adjustment disorder or situational depression: how to keep the faith during difficult times
Photo by Edgar Hernández on Unsplash

What is adjustment disorder?

A person may be suffering from an adjustment disorder when a stressful event causes him or her to have a lengthy and extreme negative reaction. Typically adjustment disorder symptoms appear within three months after a stressful, triggering event occurs and lasts no longer than six months after the event has ended.

Sometimes it is referred to as situational depression which is an out-of-proportion, excessive reaction to an identifiable life stressor. The reaction is more severe than what would normally be expected of someone. This can result in significant impairment in social, occupational, or academic spheres of life.

What causes adjustment disorder?

The extreme response may be related to a single life event such as divorce or marriage, starting a new job or losing a job, or starting school. Some individuals suffer from adjustment disorder due to multiple events or concurrent events. For example, during the pandemic many people felt the impact on both a global scale and also on a personal level. Stressors can also be recurrent events, such as a child repeatedly witnessing parents fighting.

What does an individual going through adjustment disorder experience?

Adjustment disorder often is accompanied by a depressed mood, anxiety, inappropriate conduct, or other maladaptive behaviors. It is not uncommon for them to experience problems at work or school and experience social isolation in response to their behavior.

Adjustment disorder is also associated with increased risk of suicide and suicidal thoughts, as well as substance abuse and prolongation of medical disorders. If adjustment disorder is left untreated and left to persist, it may evolve into more serious disorders such as major depressive disorder.

Impacts of adjustment disorder on children:

There are a myriad number of causes of adjustment disorders and can range from financial difficulties, problems at school, relationship issues, or death of a family member or friend.

The higher number of stressful experiences encountered during childhood, the higher the risk of individuals to develop cognitive, emotional, and developmental problems. Individuals who have encountered more stressful events during their childhood may also have lower levels of stress-management skills, lower levels of independence and self-reliance, and higher levels of anxiety and stress.

One study indicates that when children experiencing adjustment disorder are left untreated, they will accept “learned helplessness.” They will not be able to learn proper or healthy coping skills in response to difficult situations, and will enter into a helpless state. They simply accept that bad things happen to them and that they have no control over this. They will be less inclined or motivated to escape or improve situations they are not happy with.

Parents or guardians with children suffering from adjustment disorder must get help right away or risk having their children face long-term behavioral consequences. They must develop “stress resilience” where they learn how to adapt and respond in a healthy way when faced with difficult situations that life throws at them.

Treatments for adjustment disorder:

The primary goal for treatments targeting adjustment disorder is to relieve the symptoms and to help individuals achieve a level of functioning comparable to what they demonstrated before the stressful event.

Recommended treatments include:
– Individual psychotherapy
– Family therapy
– Behavioral therapy

Oftentimes, medication management is NOT the first line of treatment because the treatment is typically short-term in nature.

Treatment includes social support from family, friends, and community. If they have no previous history of mental illness, most people recover from adjustment disorder without any remaining symptoms.

People who suffer from adjustment disorder especially need to develop healthy habits that include a healthy diet and a healthy sleep schedule.

How to keep the faith during a difficult time:

Have you recently experienced a major change in your life, or a stressful experience that you are having difficulty adjusting to and accepting? Are you or a loved one experiencing adjustment disorder? How does having faith help ease our pain and worry when we endure hardship in our lives?

It is precisely during these difficult times that it is important to keep the faith and know that God is close. Remember that Satan will look for any opportunity to keep you miserable and separated from God. We understand that trusting in God is difficult when everything seems to be going wrong.

How can we trust in God when life gets so tough?

Your life can change in an instant, but God’s love for you does not waver. Even when you are feeling at your lowest point in your life, and you are feeling profound doubt about your faith, it is okay to go to Him and pray to Him. You are allowed to admit your feelings of doubt and your desperation. In fact, it is encouraged to go to Him when you are feeling this doubt. Being honest with God about our doubt can strengthen our relationship with Him. But if we hide it or are ashamed, doubt can lead us astray, which is what Satan wants.

It is important to remember that difficult moments in life are temporary, even when things do not seem that way. God’s love for us is constant, unchanging, and everlasting. Faith is the most important tool we have as Christians to protect us from the enemy Satan, and this is precisely what is being tested when difficult times come to pass. Don’t let doubt and difficult times lead you astray. God is our best and strongest refuge during these times. And He is holding onto you even if you don’t feel it!

Psalms 46:1-6

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea. Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge! A river brings joy to the city of our God, the sacred home of the Most High. God dwells in that city; it cannot be destroyed. From the very break of day, God will protect it. The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble! God’s voice thunders, and the earth melts!


We are licensed psychiatrists, nurse practitioners and psychotherapists that believe in integrating the Gospel message into mental health treatment and counseling, as well as reducing the stigma and prevalence of mental health disorders. Contact us now to learn more about treatments, or just to receive a brief consultation about the need for treatment.

Found this post useful? Please consider donating to Oak Health Foundation, which is a 501(3)c nonprofit dedicated to providing resources regarding holistic mental healthcare and subsidized treatment for those in need.

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