Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety (Situational Anxiety):

An adjustment disorder is an emotional or behavioral response to a distressing event or major change in an individual’s life. The response is considered as an improper or unhealthy reaction to the event or change, it occurs usually within three months following the distressing event. These reactions may include behaviors like isolation or social withdrawal from normally expected activities, like school or work, whereas adjustment disorder with anxiety is characterized by feelings of nervousness, worry, jitteriness, and fear of separation from major attachment figures.  


An adjustment disorder is an impulsive reaction to a stressful life event or major life change. It can have an emotional impact on people of any age. Changes in the family structures, divorce, or moving to a new place can all give rise to adjustment disorder with depression or anxiety. Affected individuals may suffer from feelings of anxiety, stress, or hopelessness. They may isolate themselves, feel like crying all the time, or have difficulty falling asleep. Children and teenagers, in particular, might engage in acting out behaviors. 

Adjustment disorder with anxiety occurs within 3 months of the stressful event and usually lasts for no longer than 6 months after the event. The symptoms resolve gradually. People can consult their health care professional if they feel the symptoms of the disorder are impairing their daily functioning. Psychotherapy can help people to overcome adjustment disorders.

A man is caught in Exhibitionistic Disorder

Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety:

Symptoms of adjustment disorder can involve:

  • Frequent anxiety or feeling uncomfortable
  • Being frequently on the verge of tears
  • Loss of hope
  • Feeling nervous and panicky
  • Careless behavior
  • Social withdrawal
  • Jitteriness
  • Fear of being abandoned
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Difficulty while functioning normally at school or work

Some people may only have emotional symptoms, while other individuals might only have behavioral issues.

Self Help for Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety:

  •  Admit the loss and the fact that things will never be the same again, take time to heal, cry, scream, most importantly do not instantly try to return to normal life very soon after the distressing event.
  • Visit a psychologist for psychotherapy.
  • Get a check-up, both the physical and psychological aspects of the body are very connected and you need to make sure that you take care of all parts of yourself.
  • Being physical and active help, exercise is the key.
  • Eat a healthy and nutritious diet, do your best to retain a good sleep cycle.
  • Do not depend on alcohol or other illicit drugs as support.
  • Rather than isolating yourself, stay connected to people who care about you.

Causes of Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety:

Adjustment disorders are caused by sudden and big changes or distressing events in your life. Genetics play a major role in your probability of getting the disorder, if you have a close relative having anxiety issues you are more prone to developing the disorder, your life experiences, and personality type. 

Risk factors of Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety:

Some factors may make you more prone to develop an adjustment disorder. Stressful life events / major changes in life (both positive and negative) can increase your risk of developing an adjustment disorder. Common examples include:

  • Break up, marital problems, or divorce
  • Relationship issues
  • Sudden changes in circumstances, such as the birth of a baby, shifting to a new place or retirement, etc.
  • Distressing life situations, such as losing a job, death of a loved one, or going through financial issues
  • Problems at school or workplace issues
  • Life-threatening circumstances, such as a physical attack, warfare, or natural disasters
  • Continuing stressors, such as having a serious disease or medical issue

Diagnosis of Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety:

Diagnosis of the disorder is dependent upon the identification of major stressors in life, the ongoing symptoms, and how they influence your ability to function. Diagnosis is usually made according to the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

For diagnosis of adjustment disorder with anxiety, the DSM-5 lists these criteria:

  • Have behavioral or emotional symptoms especially nervousness and anxiety within the last three months of a specific distressing event in your life.
  • Experiencing more than normal levels of stress in response to a stressful life event or having stress that causes noteworthy problems in your relationships, at school, or at work.
  • Current symptoms are not the result of any other mental health issue or part of normal stress.

Treatment of Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety:

Many people having adjustment disorders with anxiety find treatment to be helpful and usually they need only short-term treatment. Others, including those with chronic adjustment disorder or continuing stressors, may benefit from long-term treatment. Treatments for the disorder consist of psychotherapy, medications, or both.



Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is the most helpful treatment for adjustment disorders with anxiety. It can be given as individual, group, or family therapy. Therapy can:

  • Provide emotional support
  • Help you to get back to your normal life
  • Help you learn why the distressing event affected you so much
  • Help you learn management and coping skills to deal with disturbing events


Medicines such as anti-anxiety drugs and anti-depressants can be added to the treatment plan to help with symptoms of anxiety, stress, and depression.

As with the help of therapy, you might also need medicines only for a few months, but do not discontinue taking any prescribed medication without consulting with your doctor first. If medications are discontinued suddenly without consultation with the doctor, some medications, just like antidepressants, may cause negative withdrawal symptoms.