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Adjustment Disorders in Military Families: Supporting Resilience

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Adjustment disorders in Military Families: Supporting Resilience

Military families face unique challenges due to the demands and stressors associated with military service. These challenges can often lead to adjustment disorders, which are psychological conditions that occur in response to a significant life stressor. Adjustment disorders can have a profound impact on the well-being of military families, affecting not only the service member but also their spouse and children. However, with the right support and resources, military families can develop resilience and navigate the challenges they face. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the causes and symptoms of adjustment disorders in military families, discuss the importance of resilience, and provide practical strategies and resources for supporting resilience in military families.

Understanding Adjustment Disorders in Military Families

Adjustment disorders are a common mental health condition among military families. These disorders occur when individuals have difficulty coping with a significant life stressor, such as deployment, relocation, or separation from loved ones. In military families, adjustment disorders can arise from the unique stressors associated with military life, including frequent moves, long deployments, and the constant uncertainty and fear for the safety of the service member.

Causes of Adjustment Disorders in Military Families

There are several factors that contribute to the development of adjustment disorders in military families. These include:

1. Deployment: The separation and uncertainty associated with deployment can be a significant stressor for military families. The fear and worry for the safety of the deployed service member, coupled with the added responsibilities and challenges faced by the spouse and children left behind, can contribute to the development of adjustment disorders.

2. Relocation: Military families often have to move frequently, sometimes across different states or even countries. These frequent relocations can disrupt established support networks, strain relationships, and create a sense of instability, all of which can contribute to adjustment disorders.

3. Traumatic experiences: Military service can expose service members to traumatic events, such as combat or witnessing violence. These experiences can have a lasting impact on the mental health of the service member and their family, increasing the risk of adjustment disorders.

4. Family separation: Military families often experience prolonged periods of separation due to deployments or training exercises. The absence of a loved one can be emotionally challenging and can contribute to adjustment disorders in both the service member and their family.

Symptoms of Adjustment Disorders in Military Families

The symptoms of adjustment disorders in military families can vary depending on the individual and the specific stressor they are facing. However, common symptoms may include:

1. Emotional distress: Military families may experience intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, or anger in response to the stressors they are facing. These emotions may be overwhelming and difficult to manage.

2. Behavioral changes: Adjustment disorders can manifest in changes in behavior, such as withdrawal from social activities, increased irritability, or difficulty concentrating. Children may exhibit changes in their behavior, such as regression or acting out.

3. Physical symptoms: Some individuals may experience physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomachaches, or fatigue, as a result of the stress they are experiencing.

4. Relationship difficulties: The strain of military life can put a significant strain on relationships within military families. Marital conflicts, difficulties in parent-child relationships, and social isolation are common challenges faced by military families dealing with adjustment disorders.

The Importance of Resilience in Military Families

Resilience is the ability to adapt and bounce back from adversity. It plays a crucial role in the well-being of military families, as it helps them navigate the challenges they face and maintain their mental health. Building resilience in military families is essential for promoting their overall well-being and ensuring they can thrive despite the unique stressors they encounter.

Benefits of Resilience in Military Families

Developing resilience in military families offers several benefits, including:

1. Improved mental health: Resilience helps individuals and families cope with stress and adversity, reducing the risk of developing adjustment disorders and other mental health conditions.

2. Stronger relationships: Resilience fosters healthy coping mechanisms and communication skills, which can strengthen relationships within military families. It promotes understanding, empathy, and support, creating a more cohesive and resilient family unit.

3. Enhanced problem-solving skills: Resilience equips individuals with the ability to think critically and find effective solutions to challenges. This skill is particularly valuable in military families, where problem-solving is often required in the face of frequent relocations, deployments, and other stressors.

4. Increased adaptability: Resilience enables military families to adapt to changing circumstances and navigate transitions more effectively. It helps them embrace new environments, establish support networks, and find a sense of stability amidst the uncertainties of military life.

Strategies for Supporting Resilience in Military Families

Supporting resilience in military families requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the unique challenges they face. Here are some strategies and resources that can help military families build resilience:

1. Building a Supportive Community

Creating a strong support network is crucial for military families. Connecting with other military families who understand the challenges can provide a sense of belonging and support. Military support organizations, such as the Military Family Support Center, offer resources, counseling services, and community events that can help military families build connections and find support.

  • Attend support groups or workshops specifically designed for military families.
  • Participate in community events organized by military support organizations.
  • Utilize online forums and social media groups to connect with other military families.

2. Developing Coping Skills

Teaching individuals and families effective coping skills can help them manage stress and build resilience. Coping skills can include:

  • Deep breathing exercises and mindfulness techniques to reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.
  • Engaging in regular physical exercise to release tension and boost mood.
  • Journaling or expressive writing to process emotions and gain clarity.
  • Seeking professional counseling or therapy to learn healthy coping strategies.

3. Promoting Open Communication

Open and honest communication within military families is essential for building resilience. Encouraging family members to express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns can foster understanding and support. Some strategies for promoting open communication include:

  • Schedule regular family meetings to discuss challenges, plans, and emotions.
  • Encourage active listening and validate each family member’s experiences and emotions.
  • Use “I” statements to express feelings and avoid blaming or criticizing others.
  • Seek professional family counseling or therapy to improve communication skills.

4. Providing Education and Resources

Educating military families about the challenges they may face and providing them with resources and information can empower them to navigate these challenges more effectively. Some resources that can be helpful include:

  • Books and online articles about military life and resilience.
  • Workshops or seminars on topics such as stress management, parenting in the military, and relationship building.
  • Online platforms and apps that offer mental health resources and support.
  • Access to military family support organizations and counseling services.


Adjustment disorders in military families can have a significant impact on the well-being of service members, their spouses, and their children. However, by understanding the causes and symptoms of adjustment disorders and focusing on building resilience, military families can navigate the challenges they face and thrive despite the unique stressors of military life. By creating a supportive community, developing coping skills, promoting open communication, and providing education and resources, we can support military families in their journey towards resilience and well-being. Remember, resilience is not about avoiding challenges, but rather about developing the strength and skills to overcome them.