When you are experiencing a traumatic event, it is normal to feel overwhelmed and stressed. However, if these symptoms persist for more than a month after the event, you may be diagnosed with an adjustment disorder. Acute stress disorder is a similar diagnosis, but it applies to symptoms that occur within four weeks of the traumatic event. Both conditions can be treated with counseling and therapy.
What is Adjustment Disorder?
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), adjustment disorder is a “clinically significant condition that develops in response to an identifiable stressor or group of stressors.” The stressor(s) must be of sufficient severity to cause clinically significant distress in an individual.
- Adjustment disorder typically develops within three months of the onset of the stressor(s). The condition may resolve within six months, although some individuals may experience symptoms for up to 12 months.
- The most common symptoms of adjustment disorder include depressed mood, anxiety, and disturbances in sleeping and eating patterns. American Psychiatric Association, 2013). Some individuals may also experience problems with concentration and memory, as well as physical complaints such as headaches and stomachaches.
- In severe cases, individuals may engage in self-destructive behaviors or develop suicidal ideation. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek professional help. Adjustment disorder is a treatable condition, and with proper treatment, most individuals are able to recover fully.
What is Acute Stress Disorder?
Acute stress disorder (ASD) is a psychiatric condition that can occur in the aftermath of a traumatic event. Symptoms of ASD typically begin within three days of the event and can last for up to one month. During this time, individuals may experience a range of symptoms such as intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, avoidance of reminders of the event, and emotional numbing. While ASD is often considered to be a normal reaction to trauma, it can become problematic when symptoms persist and interfere with everyday functioning.
Difference between Adjustment Disorder and Acute Stress Disorder
Acute stress disorder (ASD) and adjustment disorder (AD) are both psychiatric conditions that can occur in response to a stressful event. ASD typically develops within four weeks of the event and lasts for at least three months. AD, on the other hand, occurs when someone experiences significant distress in response to a stressful life event but does not meet the full criteria for ASD.
While both conditions can cause symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and intrusive thoughts, ASD is generally more severe and longer lasting. Treatment for ASD typically includes cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication, while treatment for AD may involve individual or group therapy.
Acute stress disorder can be a very serious condition that requires immediate attention. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms, please seek professional help right away. However, if your symptoms do not meet the criteria for ASD or you have been diagnosed with ASD in the past but are no longer experiencing symptoms, then you may have an adjustment disorder. Adjustment disorder is a more common condition and can often be treated without professional help.