Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment Disorder

What is Adjustment Disorder?

Adjustment disorder is an abnormal and excessive reaction to an identifiable life stressor. The reaction is more severe than would normally be expected and can result in significant impairment in social, occupational, or academic functioning. Symptoms must arise within three months of the onset of the stressor and last no longer than six months after the stressor has ended.

The response may be linked to a single event (a flood or fire, marriage, divorce, starting school, a new job) or multiple events (marital problems or severe business difficulties). Stressors may be recurrent events (a child witnessing parents constantly fighting, chemotherapy, financial difficulties) or continuous (living in a crime-ridden neighborhood).

Adjustment disorder often occurs with one or more of the following: depressed mood, anxiety, disturbance of conduct (in which the patient violates rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules), and maladaptive reactions (i.e. problems related to work or school, physical complaints, social isolation).

Adjustment disorders are associated with high risk of suicide and suicidal behavior, substance abuse, and the prolongation of other medical disorders or interference with their treatment. Adjustment disorder that persists may progress to become a more severe mental disorder, such as major depressive disorder.

Adjustment disorder is sometimes referred to as Situational Depression.

Types of Adjustment Disorder

There are six different types of adjustment disorders. Each type is associated with different symptoms:

1. Adjustment disorder with depressed mood

People diagnosed with this type of adjustment disorder tend to experience feelings of sadness and hopelessness. It’s also associated with crying. You may also find that you no longer enjoy activities that you formerly enjoyed.

2. Adjustment disorder with anxiety

Symptoms associated with adjustment disorder with anxiety include feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and worried. People with this disorder may also have problems with concentration and memory. For children, this diagnosis is usually associated with separation anxiety from parents and loved ones.

3. Adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood

People with this kind of adjustment disorder experience both depression and anxiety.

4. Adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct

Symptoms of this type of adjustment disorder mainly involve behavioral issues like driving recklessly or starting fights. Teens with this disorder may steal or vandalize property. They might also start missing school.

5. Adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct

Symptoms linked to this type of adjustment disorder include depression, anxiety, and behavioral problems.

6. Adjustment disorder unspecified

Those diagnosed with adjustment disorder unspecified have symptoms that aren’t associated with the other types of adjustment disorder. These often include physical symptoms or problems with friends, family, work, or school.

Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder

Signs and symptoms depend on the type of adjustment disorder and can vary from person to person. You experience more stress than would normally be expected in response to a stressful event, and the stress causes significant problems in your life. Adjustment disorders affect how you feel and think about yourself and the world and may also affect your actions or behavior.

The mental and physical symptoms associated with adjustment disorder usually occur during or immediately after you experience a stressful event. While the disorder lasts no longer than six months, your symptoms may continue if the stressor isn’t removed. Some people have just one symptom. Others may experience many symptoms.

The mental symptoms of adjustment disorders can include:

  • Acting rebellious or impulsive
  • Acting anxious
  • Feeling sad, hopeless, or trapped
  • Worrying or feeling anxious, nervous, jittery or stressed out
  • Frequent crying
  • Withdrawn attitude
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lack of appetite
  • Conduct disturbances (e.g. truancy, vandalism, reckless driving or fighting)
  • Loss of self esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts or behavior

There is one type of adjustment disorder that is associated with physical symptoms as well as psychological ones. These physical symptoms can include:


  • Insomnia
  • Muscle twitches or trembling
  • Fatigue
  • Body pain or soreness (e.g. general aches and pains, stomachache, headache, chest pain)
  • Indigestion
  • Palpitations

Causes and Risk Factors of Adjustment Disorder

The cause of adjustment disorder is a life stressor. In adults, adjustment disorder is commonly a result of stressors related to marital discord, finances, or work. In adolescents, common stressors include school problems, family or parents’ marital problems, or issues around sexuality. Other types of stressors include the death of a loved one, life changes, unexpected catastrophes, and medical conditions such as cancer and subsequent treatments.

Factors that influence how well a person reacts to stress may include economic conditions, availability of social supports, and occupational and recreational opportunities. Susceptibility to stress may include such factors as social skills, intelligence, genetics and existing coping strategies.

Risk factors

Some things may make you more likely to have an adjustment disorder.

Stressful events

Stressful life events — both positive and negative — may put you at risk of developing an adjustment disorder. For example:

  • Divorce or marital problems
  • Relationship or interpersonal problems
  • Changes in situation, such as retirement, having a baby or going away to school
  • Adverse situations, such as losing a job, loss of a loved one or having financial issues
  • Problems in school or at work
  • Life-threatening experiences, such as physical assault, combat or natural disaster
  • Ongoing stressors, such as having a medical illness or living in a crime-ridden neighborhood

Your life experiences

Life experiences can impact how you cope with stress. For example, your risk of developing an adjustment disorder may be increased if you:

  • Experienced significant stress in childhood
  • Have other mental health problems
  • Have a number of difficult life circumstances happening at the same time

If adjustment disorders do not resolve, they can eventually lead to more serious mental health problems such as anxiety disorders, depression or substance abuse.

If you or your loved one is exhibiting the above signs then come consult with an expert psychiatrist with full confidence. Avoid self-medication.

Walk in today or call now to book an appointment at

Alabama Clinics: 334-712-1170