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Adjustment Disorder vs. PTSD

Adjustment Disorder v Ptsd

The average person's understanding of mental disorders is often limited to those that they experience firsthand. This can be something in themselves or in a loved one. Some people are born with their conditions, while others result from a traumatic experience. This, however, does not mean that all trauma and stress-related disorders are the same. Banyan Boca explores the concept of adjustment disorder vs. PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder. 

How Are They Similar? 

Both disorders result from distinct stressors or events and lead to a level of distress that can become unmanageable. Traumatic events often have a resounding impact on those that experience them and can lead to the culmination of one of these diagnoses. Anxiety is a common symptom, which is often strong enough to affect the individual’s day-to-day life.  

Additionally, both PTSD and adjustment disorder are present in DSM-5. The concept of time is another crucial factor in both disorders; however, the specifics will be where the differences lie.  

What Is the Stressor? 

A key difference between adjustment disorder and PTSD is the severity of the event that caused it in the first place. The former often results from common yet significant life changes. This can range from unemployment to changing communities and even losing a loved one. The latter typically develops after a more intense event. Examples include witnessing or participating in war or some other violent calamity. Experiencing a sex crime or abusive relationship can also leave the individual with severe post-traumatic stress that stays with them for an extended period.  

Time Frames Matter 

Another indicator used to differentiate these disorders is the length of time that symptoms are present. For individuals with adjustment disorder, symptoms will manifest within three months of the onslaught of the stressor. These symptoms will also not last longer than six months. In patients with PTSD, symptoms will last longer than a month, while delayed behaviors can occur as late as six months after the traumatic event. 

The Intensity of Symptoms  

Adjustment disorder is clearly distinguished by out-of-proportion reactions to a stress-related life change or event. An example would be if a young adult moves to college and finds it difficult to acclimate to their new surroundings. The anxiety and homesickness may even begin to take a toll on their ability to perform academically and socialize and could require professional intervention to help the student manage. 

Other common symptoms include: 

  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Persistent crying 
  • Feelings of hopelessness 
  • Fatigue 
  • Unstable moods 
  • Frequent worrying 
  • Weight loss or weight gain 

People with post-traumatic stress disorder are likely to experience more dissociative symptoms, ones which can have a drastic effect on their ability to engage in everyday life and maintain relationships. These experiences are representative of a far deeper and more severe condition that can affect the individual for an unknown amount of time. 

PTSD symptoms can include: 

  • Avoidance: Avoid places, people, or activities that remind them of the traumatic event. 
  • Intrusive memories: Recurrent painful and frightening memories, flashbacks, and nightmares. 
  • Negative mood changes: Feelings of detachment, numbness, and hopelessness are common. 
  • Severe emotional reactions: Being easily startled and vulnerable to aggressive outbursts. 

These sensations can be debilitating to the individual. Both disorders can feel incredibly isolating. Adjustment disorder vs. PTSD is not a confusing concept once someone takes the time to understand what these disorders are and how they affect those that suffer from them. What we want you to know is that nobody should have to handle these on their own. Resources are available to assist in guiding you through the recovery process. 

PTSD and Adjustment Disorder Treatment 

Regardless of the differences in adjustment disorder vs. PTSD, distressed individuals in need of care are encouraged to reach out. The Banyan Boca mental health programs are designed to provide medical treatment for mental illness. This is done at a residential level, with a variety of therapies that can aid patients in overcoming their own traumatic experiences. Our Florida mental health rehab also houses a PTSD-specific program, which can provide the necessary tools needed for providing effective care for symptoms. It can be difficult to accept we need help, but there truly is no shame in doing so. On the contrary, it is an incredibly brave act of self-preservation that can make a world of difference. 

To learn more about our Florida mental health services, call Banyan Boca at 888-280-4763 today! 


Related Readings: 

PTSD Awareness: How You Can Help 

PTSD and Alcohol Abuse 

Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa, Director of Digital Marketing
Alyssa is the National Director of Digital Marketing and is responsible for a multitude of integrated campaigns and events in the behavioral health and addictions field. All articles have been written by Alyssa and medically reviewed by our Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Darrin Mangiacarne.
Adjustment Disorder vs. PTSD
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