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Adjustment Disorder

Learn more about adjustment disorder, treatment options, self-help tools, and resources to help you cope with symptoms.

Are you sad or upset after a life change or traumatic event — so much so that it’s been hard to function? Do you experience frequent anxiety because of something that happened recently? Have you or others noticed that you’re acting differently than before? If you or a Veteran you know faces these challenges, it may indicate an adjustment disorder.

Everyone experiences stressful situations. Sometimes continuing on with everyday life while dealing with this stress becomes very difficult. When daily activities or relationships start to suffer as a result, these may be the signs of an adjustment disorder.

“It felt like I came back and all of a sudden didn’t have a safety net – that person in the military who always had my back — all while trying to find where I fit into civilian society.”

Some Veterans may experience an adjustment disorder after losing a loved one (a family member or someone from their unit), while others may experience the condition after separating from family, developing health problems, losing or changing jobs, or going through another major change in their lives.

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Stressful situations can be challenging for anyone to manage, and everyone handles stress differently. While you may wonder if your response to a stressful event is typical, try not to compare your reaction with how you think other people would have responded. Many people seem fine to others even when they're actually having a hard time with stress in private.

When considering whether you may have an adjustment disorder, the important distinction is if your response makes life difficult for you and affects your day-to-day functioning. Some adjustment disorder symptoms include:

These symptoms are similar to those for other mental health challenges. A health or mental health professional can help accurately pinpoint the problem and let you know your options.

If you're having thoughts of suicide or thinking that others would be better off without you, it's important that you talk to someone right away. Call the Veterans Crisis Line, Dial 988 then Press 1, use the online chat service, or send a text message to 838255. These services offer free, confidential support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

You don’t just have to live with an adjustment disorder. There are steps you can take to help get yourself on a better track and manage your symptoms, regardless of your decision to seek treatment:

  • Exercise regularly. Physical activity can boost your mood and clear your mind.
  • Eat healthy meals. Good nutrition helps your body and your mind.
  • Try to get a good night’s sleep. Getting quality sleep can help you feel better during the day.
  • Practice relaxation methods, such as deep breathing or quiet time alone.
  • Make time for a hobby or other activity you enjoy.
  • Talk with other Veterans, friends, or family with experiences similar to yours.

Treatment for an adjustment disorder can lead to positive and meaningful changes in symptoms and quality of life. Veterans of all ages and eras have been treated successfully for adjustment disorders.

“Just trying to avoid it, hoping it would go away, wasn’t working. My family and I had to do something. It was worth the effort to keep on trying to get better.”

Treatment for adjustment disorders usually involves counseling. Counseling can help you learn new ways of thinking, practice positive behaviors, and take active steps to cope with the challenges you face. Medications can also help with the symptoms of an adjustment disorder, such as anxiety or difficulty sleeping. Often, an adjustment disorder requires treatment for only a brief amount of time.

Your close friends and family may be the first to notice that you’re having a tough time. You may want to talk to them about what you’re experiencing, and they may be able to provide support. If you are experiencing symptoms of an adjustment disorder, you may want to see a professional for further assessment. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you will begin to feel better.

Every day, Veterans from all military service branches and eras connect with proven resources and effective treatments. Here’s how to take the next step: the one that’s right for you.

New to VA? Apply for health care benefits.

Already enrolled in VA and interested in mental health support? Schedule a mental health appointment.

  • If you’re already enrolled and using VA health care, the fastest way to schedule VA appointments is to call the VA facility where you want to receive care.
  • With VA Appointments tools, you can schedule some VA health care appointments online, view details about upcoming appointments, and organize your health care calendar.
  • If you’re not using VA medical services, contact your nearest VA medical center or Vet Center to talk about your needs.

What about other options at VA? VA offers a variety of tools and resources.  

  • The Veteran Training online self-help portal for overcoming everyday challenges includes modules on managing anger, developing parenting and problem-solving skills, and more.
  • Mental health apps for Veterans cover a variety of topics, ranging from PTSD to anger management to quitting smoking.
  • VA TeleMental Health connects you with a VA mental health provider through a computer or mobile device in your home or at your nearest VA health facility. You can learn more about this option from your local VA medical center.
  • Community-based Vet Centers provide confidential counseling, community engagement and referral services to eligible individuals and their families. You don’t need to be enrolled in VA healthcare or have a service connection to receive services. Find a Vet Center near you or call 1-877-927-8387, 24/7 to talk with a fellow Veteran about your experiences.

What about support beyond VA?

There’s a whole community of support ready to help with whatever you’re going through. Use this tool to find resources near you.

Read Next

Managing PTSD

PTSD may develop as a result of traumatic events. Treatment works and can help you deal with PTSD symptoms.

Overcoming Alcohol Use Disorder

A problem with alcohol might be harming your health and relationships. Support and services are available to help Veterans overcome problems with alcohol and get their lives on a better track.

Feeling on Edge

Hypervigilance — feeling like you’re constantly on guard — is a common response to a frightening, traumatic, or life-threatening experience, but it doesn’t have to interfere with your relationships, work, physical health, or ability to get through the day.

Additional Resources

Vet Center logo

Vet Center

Vet Centers are community-based counseling centers across the nation in all 50 states and US territories that provide a wide range of social and psychological services, including counseling to eligible Veterans, service members - including National Guard and Reserve components – and their families. Counselors and outreach specialists, many of whom are Veterans themselves, are experienced and prepared to discuss the tragedies of war, loss, grief, and transition after trauma. To learn more, find your nearest Vet Center. Teams are also available 24/7 by phone at 1-877-927-8387.

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Veterans Crisis Line logo

Veterans Crisis Line

Are you a Veteran in crisis or concerned about one? Connect with the Veterans Crisis Line to reach caring, qualified responders with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Many of them are Veterans themselves. Free support is confidential and available 24/7. Dial 988 then Press 1, chat here or text 838255.

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Self-Help Tools logo

Self-Help Tools

Veterans can access online courses that provide instruction and training in problem-solving, parenting, anger management, sleeping better, managing stress and more.

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