Adjustment Disorders

Also known as: stress response syndrome.

What are adjustment disorders?

An adjustment disorder is an unhealthy, excessive behavioral or emotional reaction, usually in children or adolescents, to a difficult and/or stressful major life event, or change in life, which may be sudden or ongoing for some time (and normally occurs within 3 months of the event).

What causes adjustment disorders?

Children vary in their temperament, vulnerability and ability to cope with a stressful situation. Divorce, death (or birth), environmental catastrophes, moving to a different city, loss of a pet, or other life change and more, are some of the triggers that may result in adjustment symptoms.

What are the symptoms of adjustment disorders?

There are a number of ways children/adolescents present. Symptoms may be predominantly associated with:

  • Depressed mood (like tearfulness, sadness, hopelessness)
  • Anxiety symptoms (like worry or  nervousness)
  • A combination of depressed mood plus anxiety symptoms
  • Problems with the way they behave (like bullying, destruction of property, fighting, missing school)
  • A mixture of emotional and conduct symptoms
  • A variety of symptoms that don’t fit into any of the above presentations.

Symptoms may also suggest medical (for example skipped heartbeats) or psychiatric problems.

What are adjustment disorder care options?

Individual psychotherapy with a cognitive behavioral approach, family therapy, talk therapy, self-help peer groups, and possibly medications for a short time for a specific symptom, may all be offered.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: November 19, 2019 01:06 PM

Psychiatry for Children

The Pediatric Psychiatry team at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital uses a interdisciplinary and family-centered treatment approach for a variety of behavioral disorders and conditions.

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Weekly Support Programs

​F.O.C.U.S. Program

This program is currently suspended due to the pandemic. 8 week program. This group therapy program is designed for children ages 7 to 17 with behavioral issues, including but not limited to ADHD. The weekly sessions teach innovative techniques to assist children with managing feelings, developing organization skills, maximizing their concentration abilities and socialization skills. Learn more.

Social Skills Group

This program is currently suspended due to the pandemic. 8 week program. Children and teens ages 7 to 17 are invited to join this small discussion group to learn how to make, cultivate and maintain friendships. Participants will learn basic conversational skills, and discuss the use of appropriate humor, how to electronically connect with others, and how to manage disagreements. Learn more.

Calm Kids

8 week program. Calm Kids is a weekly group therapy course designed to teach children strategies on how to take control over anxiety symptoms. Children will learn how to cope with fears and worries, identify anxiety triggers, how to relax the mind and body and maximize their self-confidence. Learn more.

Pain Management Group

8 week program. This program is specifically designed to empower children ages 7-18 through complex sensory experiences. Each session is created to teach participants evidenced-based techniques to better manage pain and improve overall quality of life. Learn more.

Teen Sleep Group

The six-week program is designed for teens ages 12 to 17 experiencing difficulties related to sleep, including daytime sleepiness, trouble waking in the morning, difficulty falling asleep and waking in the middle of the night. The goal of this group is to give teens the tools and strategies they need in order to get more sleep and better quality sleep. Learn more.