You may have noticed changes in your partner after a significant life event, such as a job change or loss, the development of a physical illness, death of a loved one, having an accident, having a baby, or surviving a traumatic event.
Some of the symptoms you may have noticed in your partner are a low mood, trouble sleeping, little or no appetite, anxiety, stomachaches or headaches, missing work or school, and less interest in activities that used to be fun.
Sounds like depression, right? Maybe. Or maybe not. It could be adjustment disorder.
“Adjustment disorder” is a diagnosis given when the symptoms your partner is experiencing are in direct relation to a life event, and the reaction is generally greater than what would typically be expected for that situation. The symptoms generally develop within three months of the event, and rarely last more than six months. Once your partner adjusts to the changes in their life because of the event, the symptoms generally abate.
Adjustment disorder is very common, and does not discriminate among whom it affects: women and men of all ages, races, and lifestyles can have it. However, adjustment disorder does tend to be more prevalent during stages of life when there are transitions, such as adolescence, mid-life, and late in life.
Even though the symptoms of adjustment disorder are typically not as intense or long in duration as depression, that doesn’t mean your partner should suffer and “wait it out” until things settle down. Left untreated, adjustment disorder can very easily become depression, anxiety, or something else, such as an eating disorder, or substance abuse issue, if your partner is trying to “self-medicate.”
If you have noticed your partner struggling with everyday life since a major life event has happened, encourage them to seek treatment from a mental health professional. Often, short-term psychotherapy is enough to mitigate the symptoms, and teach your partner skills that they can use when future life stressors appear.