Adjustment Disorder with Depression (Situational Depression):

Adjustment disorder, also known as situational depression, usually occurs as a reaction to sudden, unexpected, stressful events and significant changes in the life of an individual, it occurs after a specific trauma i.e. accident, divorce, death of a loved one, or any other major life change. Though it is not permanent, typically it has inception within three months of the distressing event and the symptoms usually begin to go away within 6 months.


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. Affected individuals may suffer from feelings of anxiety, depression, or hopelessness. They may isolate themselves, feel like crying all the time, or have difficulty falling asleep. Kids and teenagers, particularly, might show disturbing behavior.

Adjustment disorder occurs within 3 months of the stressful event, and usually lasts for no longer than 6 months after the distressing event, and its symptoms resolve gradually. People can consult their health care professional if they feel the symptoms of adjustment disorder. A doctor might refer them to a psychologist, Following psychotherapy can help people to overcome the adjustment disorder.

A man is caught in Exhibitionistic Disorder

Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder with Depression:

Symptoms of adjustment disorder can involve:

  • Sad and depressed mood
  • Feeling uncomfortable
  • Being frequently on the verge of tears
  • Loss of hope
  • Feeling nervous and panicky
  • Careless behavior
  • Social withdrawal
  • 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 Depression:

  • 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 Depression:

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, your life experiences, and your personality.

Risk factors of Adjustment Disorder with Depression:

Some factors that may make you more prone to develop the 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 Depression:

Diagnosis of adjustment disorders is dependent upon the identification of major stressors in life along with the ongoing symptoms and how they influence your ability to function. Your physician will ask about your medical history, mental health, and social history. 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 the diagnosis of adjustment disorders, the DSM-5 lists these criteria:

  • Have behavioral or emotional symptoms 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 Depression:

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



Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, is the most helpful treatment for adjustment disorders. 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-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs can be added to the treatment plan to help with symptoms of anxiety and depression.

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