Spoilers ahead for Jane the Virgin Season 5, Episode 5. Jane The Virgin has been full of twist and turns as of late, and April 24's episode, “Chapter 86,” was no different. While Jane should have been joyfully celebrating her 30th birthday, she was too busy trying to navigate a tumultuous split from Rafael. On top of the breakup, Jane was sorting through all sorts of complicated feelings for Michael, trying to push through writer’s block, and learning how to co-parent her upset son, Mateo. Throughout the episode, viewers watch Jane understandably experiencing intense emotions: She seems extra weepy, irritated, anxious, and detached from her loved ones. And she even skips her own birthday party because the thought of attending without Rafael and Mateo by her side is just too painful. This period of extreme stress Jane seems to be going through on Jane The Virgin following her breakup is all-too-common IRL, and experts say it actually has its own name: adjustment disorder.
Psychology Today defines adjustment disorder — sometimes referred to as situational depression, or stress response syndrome by some mental health professionals — as a “lengthy” or “excessive” negative reaction to a stressful life event or major life change. Laura Rhodes-Levin, LMFT, founder of The Missing Peace Center for Anxiety, tells Bustle that everything from a breakup or losing your job, to moving, marriage, or even having a baby, can trigger the onset of this exaggerated stress response.
In many ways, the symptoms of adjustment disorder are similar to the ones people with major depression, PTSD, or anxiety experience. However, Rhodes-Levin says, “The most common differentiation from major depression and anxiety disorders is the symptoms are triggered by an outside stressor.”
“Symptoms can present themselves emotionally, such as feelings of hopelessness, worry, a desire to isolate, and sadness, to name a few. Physical symptoms can present with troubled sleeping, change in appetite, headaches, gastrointestinal issues, [and] loss of energy.”
Moreover, as Healthline reported, excessive crying and impulsiveness are also common symptoms of adjustment disorders. This may be why viewers see Jane throughout “Chapter 86” struggling to take on her day-to-day responsibilities without breaking into tears. And, why she totally bails on her own birthday party at literally the last second — as her friends watch her speed away from the window of her abuela’s house that’s strewn with party decorations.
There are several ways to overcome and treat adjustment disorder. First of all, Rhodes-Levin says, “Having compassion, and normalizing a person’s feelings who is experiencing adjustment disorder is very important.” Experiencing a major life change — whether it's negative or positive — can be nerve-wracking, overwhelming, and exhausting. Simple things like re-establishing a new routine or incorporating basic self-care into your day may help ease the symptoms of this stress-related condition.
However, for people experiencing more severe depressive symptoms or anxiety, Rhodes-Levin says it may be necessary to seek out treatment. “A good mental health professional is a great place to start for someone who is experiencing adjustment disorder,” she says. “Cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy are often used for depression and anxiety. At my clinic, I find them to be very effective with adjustment disorder as well. Meeting with someone, and forming a therapeutic relationship creates a safe new routine to process what the person is going through, without feeling like a burden to those around [them].”
As the Mayo Clinic notes, some psychiatrists and physicians may also opt to use medications such as antidepressants to help lessen the symptoms of adjustment disorder. Rhodes-Levin says that the symptoms of adjustment disorder tend to dissipate within six months of the major life change, however, “anything beyond that is re-diagnosed with the possibilities of depression disorder, PTSD, or anxiety disorder.”
When it comes down to it, the sadness, confusion, and anxiety Jane is feeling following her split with Rafael is super common, so it's great to see a popular TV show normalizing this, well, normal reaction. With the appropriate help, most people who are struggling with adjustment disorder IRL may feel better, too.
If you or someone you know is seeking help for mental health concerns, visit the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) website, or call 1-800-950-NAMI(6264). For confidential treatment referrals, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or call the National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP(4357). In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or call 911.