Brief Depressive Adjustment Reaction

Written by Chitra Badii and Matthew Solan | Published on July 25, 2012
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD


A brief depressive adjustment reaction (BDAR) is a psychological reaction to a stressful event. It is also called an adjustment disorder. Losing a loved one, a job, or feeling alone in a new environment all cause stress. Any such scenario can cause BDAR. Your symptoms might include missing work, school, or withdrawing from social activities.

What Causes BDAR?

You may have BDAR is your recovery from a challenging event goes on for a long time. If your grades drop or if you find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning for weeks at a time, you may want to talk with your doctor about your symptoms.

BDAR has no biological cause. Your temperament, life skills, coping mechanisms, and social support system are all factors in how you respond to stressful events. The intensity of the emotional trigger also varies from person to person. You might recover quickly from a financial loss, whereas your sibling or friend might be depressed for months after a similar event.

Who is at Risk for BDAR?

Children and teens are more prone to this disorder due to undeveloped coping skills. Adolescents with BDAR tend to lash out in response to events, whereas adults show more signs of depression. Children typically experience more intense symptoms (e.g., crying and withdrawing) for a longer period than adults.

What are the Symptoms of BDAR?

It’s natural to feel sad or upset after a disappointing life event. However, when feelings of depression persist beyond a few days or a week or two, an adjustment disorder may be at work. If your symptoms continue for a long time and interfere with your job and relationships, you may have BDAR. Specific symptoms include:

  • crying on a daily basis
  • general sadness
  • changes in appetite
  • signs of listlessness
  • feeling hopeless
  • loss of interest in hobbies and social activities
  • suicidal thoughts

How is BDAR Diagnosed?

To get an accurate diagnosis, you will need to see a mental health professional. Through a full psychiatric evaluation and gathering information about your personal history, a psychiatrist or counselor can make a diagnosis. The interview will typically include questions about recent events in your life, as well as long-term challenges that may cause your symptoms. This disorder is characterized by its brief duration. If your condition persists for longer than six months your diagnosis may be adjusted to depression or another relevant condition.

How is BDAR Treated?

Treating BDAR involves therapy, support, and medications that can help you regain your energy and zest for life.


Undergoing therapy helps you pinpoint your responses to stress in order to develop more effective coping strategies. The therapist might also help you to focus on what you are doing well in order to gain energy from your strengths. Therapy types and formats may include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A counselor trained in CBT can help you examine your mental approaches to problems and identify any habitually negative responses to stimulus you may have.
  • Family Therapy Sessions: If you need support from other family members, family therapy assists with resolving communication issues and creating more harmonious relationships.
  • Support Groups: You might meet with people who have suffered a similar loss or you can work on social skills in a group environment.
  • Life Coaching: Working with a certified life coach helps you to focus on your passions. A life coach can help achieve specific life goals, such as a job search or a fresh approach to schoolwork.


To manage your depression, your psychiatrist may prescribe antidepressant medication such as Prozac, Elavil, or Effexor to help elevate your mood. Stimulants may also be part of your treatment plan if you need them to become more alert and less withdrawn.

Treatments for brief depressive adjustment reaction are typically effective, and result in a complete recovery.

Can BDAR be Prevented?

Preventing BDAR is difficult. The condition depends on your specific temperament and coping skills when facing stressful life events. If you are prone to hopelessness and sadness in reaction to stressors, seek support right away during a challenging event. You may find that working with a counselor and/or participating in support groups provide all the support you need. However, do not hesitate to follow your doctor’s advice about antidepressant medications. Your situation may require the extra assistance to get your life back on track.

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