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Childhood Adjustment Disorder

I. What is Adjustment Disorder?

Adjustment Disorder (AD) manifests itself in different ways for different people. People with Adjustment Disorder are reacting to a specific stressful event or series of events. People with AD generally exhibit signs of depression, anxiety, or the combination of the same. Social difficulties and loss of coping abilities usually appear. Most of the time, AD appears within three months of a specific stressful event but lasts no longer than six months, however if the stressful problem is a continuing one, AD can persist.

AD is said to affect approximately 5% of the population at any given time. It can develop at any age, but is particularly evident in times of a life change, and in the adolescent, mid-life, and later life stages.

II. What are the symptoms of AD?

There are six different classifications of AD, and the symptoms are related to the classifications. These classifications are:

  1. AD/Depressed: Feelings of hopelessness and sadness
  2. AD/Anxiety: Anxious, worried, jittery feelings
  3. AD/Mixed Anxiety and Depression: Hopeless feelings
    mixed with anxiety
  4. AD/Conduct Disorder: Person stops adhering to society's rules. They become reckless and argumentative.
  5. AD/Mixed Emotional and Conduct Disturbance
  6. Unspecified: Other symptoms included in this category include withdrawal and unspecified physical symptoms such as headaches.

Diagnosis is made by a professional diagnostician but you can take these quizzes to help you determine whether or not your child is suffering from AD.

III. How is AD diagnosed?

Diagnosis of AD is made by a mental health professional by asking a series of questions to determine the history of the patient: both physically and mentally. If the diagnostician suspects AD, he or she will try to pinpoint the event that is causing the stress.

IV. How is AD treated?

A. Talking therapy:
An adjustment disorder rarely lasts longer than six months, but may continue if the situation that caused the stress persists. Therapy, both individual and group has been very successful in helping people deal with AD. In addition, there are support groups available to deal with certain types of stressor situations, for example, support groups for children of divorced parents.
B. Medications:
In most cases, medication for adjustment disorder is not advised. In some cases, medications for stress, anxiety, or depression are prescribed on a short-term basis in dealing with AD. In any case, it is advised that medications be used to supplement psychotherapy, and not to replace therapy. Medications

V. I suspect that my child has Adjustment Disorder.
What do I do now?

Professionals to Seek Out

  1. See your physician or pediatrician
  2. Consult with your clergy to assist in spiritual and
    practical guidance
  3. Consult with an educational consultant to help you
    find the right program for your child.
  4. Consult with a therapist or counselor.
  5. Consult with an Educational Advocate to help you
    with your current school situation
  6. Consult with an Educational Consultant to find the
    right program for your child.

Find out more about Educational Consultants


  1. Inpatient: hospitalization
  2. Outpatient Facilities
    Outpatient facilities have therapeutic staff on-hand to offer therapy and support to patients on a part-time basis.
  3. Day Treatment
  4. Residential Programs

a. Emotional Growth School
Emotional Growth schools are highly structured environments that stress academics and teach coping skills through the use of conflict resolution. Children learn they can make choices and learn to accept responsibility through the use of modeling behavior and outdoor therapy. The length of stay is between 9 and 18 months, at which time they either return to the mainstream or attend a boarding school, if possible. Parents are involved with the school staff and the children throughout the child's attendance at the school.

Find out more about Outdoor Therapy

b. Therapeutic Residential Boarding School
These schools are usually fully accredited schools with emotional growth programs. They stress holistic education: growth of the person through holding children responsible for their actions. There is no rehabilitation or physicians on staff.

c. Therapeutic Wilderness Program
A Therapeutic Wilderness program does not necessarily have academics; their goal can be to introduce the children to a different role. These programs use Outdoor Therapy to help build low self-esteem. They make obtainable goals for them to reach. The programs vary but they are about 6 to 8 weeks long. It is a very structured program with a goal of teaching the children coping skills and raising their self-esteem. Children go from this program to mainstream back into their public school or attend a small structured boarding school.
Find out more about Therapeutic Wilderness Programs

d. Residential Treatment School
A Residential Treatment Program or School provides a full professional staff that includes therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists. They also have a small academic program. Many of the children in the program have been recommended there by mental health agencies that make the placements. It is a highly structured environment whose emphasis is on treatment and learning coping skills and independent living. Chemical dependence education and rehabilitation is also provided. Outdoor therapy is sometimes used to facilitate building social skills and self-esteem. Recovery programs are also available. Residential Treatment schools are secure schools.
Find out more about Residential Treatment Schools

Which program is right for my child?



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