Adjusting to change can be difficult, and even positive changes often cause stress. Some of these changes include marriage, childbirth, new jobs, moving, retirement, or entering the ’empty nest’ phase of their lives may cause a significant amount of stress. It can be difficult for some people to adjust to changes they cannot control, whether or not these changes are positive. 

Changes – especially difficult changes – can promote personal growth, and dealing with a change successfully may leave one stronger, more confident, and better prepared for what comes next in life. In other words, even those changes that are neither expected nor wanted might still produce beneficial outcomes. Change can also make clear what is important in one’s life and allow for greater self-discovery and self-awareness.

Because change can cause stress, it can have an effect on one’s daily life. A person facing a major life change might experience anxiety, depression, or fatigue; have headaches, experience trouble sleeping, and /or abuse drugs and alcohol. Persistent symptoms of stress can improve with treatment in therapy. 

A diagnosis of adjustment disorder can occur when a major life stress or change disrupts normal coping mechanisms and makes it difficult or impossible for a person to cope with new circumstances. Symptoms of this condition tend to begin within three months of the stress or change and often include changes in daily habits, a depressed or anxious mood, feelings of overwhelming stress, difficulty enjoying activities, and changes in sleeping or eating. 

Talking about changes in life with a therapist, such as a marriage, the loss of a family member, the loss of a job, or the approach of middle age, can be helpful to some. When life changes prove difficult and lead to stress, anxiety, or depression, a therapist can also help treat those issues and help one explore coping strategies. When people know that they do not cope well with change, speaking with a therapist before they are expected to occur may be warranted. In that sense, one can prepare for changes and become better able to face them in the future, even without prior knowledge of them. 

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    Dr. Robin Kroll
    LICENSED CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST

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