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Adjustment Disorder - Types, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Published on Jul 21, 2022 and last reviewed on Jan 18, 2023   -  4 min read


Adjustment disorder is an excessive emotional response to sudden changes in life. To know more about this condition go through the article below.

Adjustment Disorder - Types, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Certain least expected events in life could be stressful, right? Our body goes through a wave of emotional outbursts as a response and tries to cope. These emotions last for a certain period, and we tend to overcome them or adapt to the change. With adjustment disorder, it gets difficult for the person to get over such happenings; as this condition comes with few depression symptoms, it is also named situational depression.

What Are the Types of Adjustment Disorders?

The following are the six types of adjustment disorder;

  • Adjustment disorder with depressed mood usually shows symptoms like feeling lost and helpless, crying the eyes out more often, and refraining from otherwise enjoyable activities.

  • As the name suggests, adjustment disorder with anxiety shows symptoms of anxiousness most of the time.

  • Adjustment disorder with depressed mood and anxiety shows combined symptoms of the first two types.

  • Adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct shows negative behavioral alterations, such as showing harsh behavior and treating rashly.

  • Adjustment disorder unspecified shows symptoms involving the body, such as tiredness, feeling sleepy, headaches, etc.

  • Adjustment disorder with mixed disturbances of emotion and conduct shows a combination of various emotional and behavioral symptoms.

What Symptoms Does an Adjustment Disorder Show?

The symptoms vary with the type of adjustment disorder, the situation that caused it, and individual susceptibility. People with adjustment disorder show excessive emotional and behavioral responses than anticipated, and their view of themselves and the world becomes negative. A few common symptoms associated with this condition are;

These symptoms usually start after around three to four months after the sudden incident and can last for up to six months in some cases even more.

Who Is Susceptible to Adjustment Disorder?

This disorder can affect any individual, from children to adults, but the symptoms vary with age. The prevalence rate remains neutral between males and females. The incidence of this disorder is entirely based on your coping mechanism to specific stressful events and how you take them.

What Are the Risk Factors of Adjustment Disorder?

Few risk factors for this disorder are listed below;

  • Losing someone close to death (a family member or a friend).

  • Marital problems, recent divorce, bad breakups, or relationship-related struggles.

  • Life happenings such as unexpected pregnancy, having a baby, forced marriages, etc.

  • Emotional traumas by the parents or spouse.

  • Situations like losing a job, retirement, unemployment, and adapting to a new job.

  • Health issues, being financially low, etc.

  • Physical abuse by a partner or a stranger.

  • Revealing sexuality to the parents and society.

  • Specific past experiences can trigger adjustment disorder in everyday situations due to the existing trauma, such as being subjected to physical abuse and other mental health-compromising events.

  • A group of problems all occurring at the same time.

In children, the disorder might be due to;

  • Problems at schools or colleges.

  • Changing schools, shifting to a hostel or college.

  • Abusive parenting.

How Is an Adjustment Disorder Diagnosed?

  • It is usually diagnosed by a psychiatrist or a mental health professional by psychological analysis, knowing the associated symptoms and any stressful events in the recent past.

  • A complete history of the life events is necessary for the diagnosis and hence requires utmost cooperation from the patient.

How to Prevent Adjustment Disorder?

  • There is not a definite way that is guaranteed to relieve adjustment disorder. It is entirely based on how resilient you are to situations and your adaptability to change.

  • Though such events are unfortunate and appear in a blink and are never anticipated, try to bring yourself out of it.

  • When you know certain things will happen shortly, prepare yourself to face it and understand that it is a phase and shall pass. Eventually, you will adapt to the change.

  • Take help from your trusted family and friends, or opt to get professional support when you feel emotionally drained.

  • Indulging in activities that you enjoy and feel relaxing, setting a routine for yourself.

  • Self-care, meditation, working out, self-affirmations and appreciation, and journaling are a few ways that can also help ease mental pain.

How Is an Adjustment Disorder Treated?

Adjustment disorder disappears over time when the cause is removed or fades from the memory and does not haunt anymore. The treatment for adjustment disorder usually involves;

  • Behavioral therapies focus on solving the problems rather than whining about them.

  • Psychotherapy or talk therapy in the individuals who try to bundle up the problems to themselves, letting it all out helps.

  • Medications include anti-anxiety drugs or anti-depressants.

  • Family therapies and peer group therapies are also suggested in a few cases.

What Are the Complications of Adjustment Disorder?

If left untreated or unattended, people with adjustment disorder can experience the following complications with time;

  • May become addicted to drugs, alcohol or games, etc.

  • Suicidal thoughts keep appearing, and also make suicidal attempts.

  • May become depressed and suffer severe anxiety disorders.

In such cases, it is essential to seek medical help.


Mental health is always considered trivial in our busy everyday lives and often ignored, making us vulnerable to situations like adjustment disorders. Setting mental health at the top, changing our perspective on certain things in life, and developing resilience to facing challenging problems will prevent emotional disorders. Also, keeping the struggle to oneself and suffering alone will worsen the condition; it is good to seek help when in need.

Frequently Asked Questions


Is Adjustment Disorder a Serious Issue?

Adjustment Disorder is an emotional response to an event. Symptoms may not immediately subside with stopping the stress but will begin to diminish. Psychotherapy or family therapy is the treatment for adjustment disorder. In some cases, medications may be given. If adjustment disorders do not resolve, then they can lead to more serious mental health problems.


What Can Trigger Adjustment Disorder?

Any stressful issues that can cause significant problems in the home, work, or social life can trigger adjustment disorder. Some examples include:
- Relationship issues, including marital problems, breakups, and divorce.
- Serious health issues.
- Death of a close person.
- School issues.
- Life-threatening experiences, such as natural disasters and physical assaults.
- Financial problems.
- Work issues (failing to meet goals, job loss, etc.).
- Retiring.
- Disaster or unexpected tragedy.


What Is the Treatment for an Adjustment Disorder?

Adjustment disorders can be treated by psychotherapy, medications, or both.
- Psychotherapy is also known as talk therapy. It can provide emotional support and bring the person back to normal life.
- Medications such as anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants may be given to help with symptoms of anxiety and depression.


How to Identify a Person With an Adjustment Disorder?

Adjustment disorder can be identified with the symptoms and behavior of a person that includes:
- Fear.
- Restlessness.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty breathing.
- Panic attacks.
- Irritability.
- Mild memory loss.
- Jitteriness.


What Is the Difference Between Adjustment Disorder and PTSD?

One of the main differences between adjustment disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is that an Adjustment disorder onset involves a change in the environment or a stressful event, whereas PTSD is triggered by a traumatic event. As a result, the symptom of PTSD tends to last longer than an adjustment disorder.


What Are the Medications for an Adjustment Disorder?

Anti-anxiety medicines (Benzodiazepines) and antidepressant medicines like Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) or Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) are the main drugs used to treat adjustment disorders. In addition, the doctors may also prescribe medication to help in sleeping.


Is an Adjustment Disorder Considered a Disability?

Adjustment disorder is an emotional disability. Individuals with this condition may be eligible to get Social Security Disability Insurance. Although, individuals must have symptoms that limit their ability to finish work-related tasks, such as fatigue and anxiety.


What Are the Symptoms of Adjustment Disorders?

The signs and symptoms of adjustment disorder vary from person to person, depending on the type of adjustment disorder. Some examples are:
- Frequent crying.
- Feeling sad and hopeless.
- Feeling anxious, jittery, nervous, or stressed out.
- Feeling overwhelmed.
- Lack of appetite.
- Trouble sleeping.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Withdrawing from social events.
- Difficulty managing daily activities.
- Suicidal thoughts or behavior.


What Are the Symptoms of Depressed Mood in Adjustment Disorder?

The symptoms of adjustment disorder with depressed mood include hopelessness, crying, feelings of sadness, and lack of joy from past pleasurable movements or things. Also, they have trouble concentrating on certain things.


How Long Can an Adjustment Disorder Last?

The adjustment disorder symptoms begin within three months of a stressful event. It usually lasts no longer than six months after the end of the stressful incident. However, chronic or persistent adjustment disorders can continue for more than six months.


Is Adjustment Disorder a Mental Illness?

Adjustment disorder has been classified as a mental disorder in the DSM-5. It is an excessive emotional response to an event that is stressful. It can be immediate or can delay up to 3 months after the event. People tend to overcome change or adapt to change over time though a miniscule percentage may be exception to the rules.


What Is an Example Situation of Adjustment Disorder?

A group of emotional symptoms that are expressed in response to a stressful situation in life is called adjustment disorder. Losing a loved one by death due to a sudden illness or accident, an unexpected divorce, unplanned pregnancy, getting into marriage by force, etc can be considered examples of adjustment disorder. Frequent crying, getting anxious, nervous, nervous, and feeling hopeless can be the symptoms commonly seen.


Can Adjustment Disorder Be Cured?

Adjustment disorder can be hard in older people as well as children. Therapy, medication, or a combination of both can be used in the treatment of the condition. Usually, people recover fast from this condition. Sometimes it can last up to six months.


Is Adjustment Disorder Like Depression?

Adjustment disorder can be different from major depression. It does not exhibit extreme symptoms like changes in sleep pattern, appetite, energy or suicidal thoughts, or changes in behavior. However, if it does not resolve within a short time, it may lead to depression.


How is Adjustment Disorder Diagnosed?

An adjustment disorder is usually diagnosed by an experienced psychiatrist or a mental health professional. It is understood by psychological analysis, and knowing the symptoms of the patient. History of past trauma or unexpected events is also considered.


Is Adjustment Disorder Genetic?

Genetic makeup can influence how one behaves in situations in life. However, adjustment disorder cannot be completely treated as a genetic disorder. It also depends on the situation or the event that puts the person under stress.


How to Deal With Someone With Adjustment Disorder?

Try maximum to avoid situations that can put the person under stress. Encourage the person to follow a healthy lifestyle. Include the person in more social gatherings where they can build new friendships and mingle with more people.


What Type of Psychotherapy Is Best for Adjustment Disorder?

Talk therapy is considered best for adjustment disorder. It can be an individual talk, by the family, or as a group discussion. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also be helpful. It includes problem-solving skills, communication skills, and stress management.


Can Marriage Cause Adjustment Disorder?

An unexpected marriage can be a cause for adjustment disorder. It can be due to the sudden changes in the atmosphere and people mingling with it. An unexpected divorce can be yet another cause of adjustment disorder.


Is Adjustment Disorder Related to OCD?

here may be a correlation between OCD and adjustment disorder, but more research is needed to fully understand the link between the two. Individuals with a family history of OCD are generally at a higher risk of adjustment disorder. They usually show poor social adjustment.


What Is the Goal of Adjustment Disorder?

The main goal of treatment for adjustment disorder is to help the individual to cope with the stress associated with a sudden change. It helps them to relieve the symptoms associated with adjustment disorder and to function better even in the midst of the changes.


Can Bipolar Go Away?

Bipolar disorder does not go away on its own. It requires continuous treatment, which helps to manage the symptoms. Bipolar requires lifelong treatment.


What Are the Signs of Bipolar Patients?

Symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary, but may include manic episodes, hypomanic episodes, and depressive episodes. Signs and symptoms in bipolar patients can include;
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or irritated most of the time.
- Lack energy.
- Difficulty in concentrating and remembering things.
- Lack of interest in everyday activities.
- Feeling worthlessness or guilt.
- Feelings of guilt and despair.
- Being pessimistic.
- Self-doubt.
- Depressive episodes, 
- Changes in sleep patterns and appetite, 
- Loss of interest in activities, difficulty concentrating, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, 
- Thoughts of death or suicide.

Article Resources

Last reviewed at:
18 Jan 2023  -  4 min read




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