Signs & Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder

About Adjustment Disorder

Learn More About Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by the development of behavioral and emotional disturbances as a result of suffering from an identifiable stressor. The symptoms that arise are clinically significant and can lead to impairments in occupational functioning, social interactions, and other parts of one’s everyday functioning. In addition, the symptoms that develop demonstrate an amount of distress in the individual that is disproportionate to the severity of the issue that led to the reaction. There are many occurrences that can lead to the development of adjustment disorder, and the upset that is experienced as a result will vary from person to person. In some instances, the symptoms will manifest shortly after the triggering event occurred, while in other cases, they might not show themselves for up to three months after the stressor occurred. Thankfully, the symptoms of adjustment disorder tend to dissipate within six months, other than in circumstances where individuals are exposed to ongoing or recurrent stressors. Treatment is an option for those struggling with adjustment disorder.


Adjustment Disorder Statistics

Adjustment disorder is said to be very common among all age groups. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association reports that, within inpatient settings, it is typically the most commonly diagnosed disorder, often reaching up to 50%.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for Adjustment Disorder

The development of adjustment disorder happens when an individual suffers an environmental stressor (or a number of stressors) that causes him or her to respond with upsetting emotional or behavioral symptoms. Those who are subjected to disadvantaged life circumstances, or who are chronically exposed to stressful situations, are at a greater risk for developing this disorder.

Adjustment disorder can stem from many different types of circumstances, or might be the product of one specific stressor or recurrent stressors. Some of the many events know to elicit the onset of adjustment disorder include, however are not limited to, the following:

  • Retirement
  • Becoming a parent
  • Failing to attain occupational goals
  • Loss of a parent or other loved one
  • Living in a neighborhood that has a high rate of crime or violence
  • Business difficulties
  • Experiencing a natural disaster
  • Termination of a romantic relationship
  • Marital difficulties
  • Leaving or reentering a parental home
  • Significant problems in school
  • Changes in school
  • Getting married
  • Suffering from a chronic and/or painful illness

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder

The kinds of symptoms that are displayed when an individual struggles with adjustment disorder will undoubtedly vary from individual to individual depending on a number of factors. Such factors can include the individual’s age, the specific circumstances surrounding the event that triggered the onset of the disorder, and the support network that the individual has available to him or her. Some of the symptoms include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Onset of self-harming behaviors
  • Making attempts at suicide
  • Aggressive outbursts
  • Tearfulness
  • No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Isolating oneself from friends and family members
  • Failure to attend work or school
  • Drop in performance at work or school
  • No longer adhering to other daily responsibilities

Physical symptoms:

  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Chest pains
  • Other bodily aches and pains
  • Muscle tension
  • Persistent headaches

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Struggling to make good decisions
  • Experiencing memory disturbances
  • Experiencing difficulty concentrating
  • Suffering from an inability to use sound judgment and reasoning

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of nervousness
  • Depressed feelings
  • Anxious feelings
  • Excessive feelings of worry, concern, or dread
  • Emotional instability


Effects of Adjustment Disorder

Due to the nature of adjustment disorder, the symptoms that impact individuals who struggle with this mental illness often do not last longer than six months after the event that caused their onset. However, in situations where individuals are exposed to continued stressors, the symptoms might continue for longer periods of time. Some of the many effects that can develop from the presence of adjustment disorder when treatment is not obtained can include the following:

  • Beginning to abuse drugs or alcohol
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Onset of symptoms of other mental health disorders
  • Persistent, unpredictable mood swings
  • Decreased performance at work or school
  • Decline in social interactions
  • Disturbed interpersonal relationships
  • Suicidal behaviors

Co-Occurring Disorders

Adjustment Disorder & Co-Occurring Disorders

Sadly, adjustment disorder is a condition that can co-occur alongside other mental health conditions, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Some of these co-occurring disorders can include the following:

  • Specific phobias
  • Panic disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
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