Adjustment Disorder

What Are Adjustment Disorders?

Adjustment disorders are unusual reactions to a stressful event or situation. Adjustment disorder is not the same as post traumatic stress syndrome , which is generally in response to a more severe stressor. These reactions start within 3 months of the stressful event. There are many different categories of adjustment disorders, including:

Adjustment disorder with depressed mood

people with this type of adjustment disorder often have feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or cry a lot.

Adjustment disorder with anxiety

people usually feel nervous, worry, or experience jitteriness.

Adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood

people may have feelings of hopelessness, nervousness or feel sad, worry or cry a lot or experience jitteriness.

Adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct

people do not adhere to societal norms and rules. They may violate the rights of others with truancy, vandalism, reckless driving, fighting, or other endangering acts.

Adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct

this category includes people with some emotional symptoms (e.g. anxiety or depression) and disturbance of conduct symptoms.


this category includes other reactions such as withdrawal, inhibition, or physical manifestations such as stomach aches or headaches.

Adjustment disorders are considered acute if they have lasted less than 6 months. They are considered chronic if they have lasted more than 6 months.

Unfortunately, adjustment disorders are common, but the exact percent of the population who experience them is unknown. Adjustment disorders can affect anyone regardless of gender, age, race, or circumstance. They depend on personal factors that vary from person to person and over a lifetime.

What Causes Adjustment Disorders?

An adjustment disorder occurs when a person cannot cope with a psychological stressor. The stressor can be anything that is important to the individual. Everyone reacts differently to a situation depending on the importance and intensity of the event, the personality and temperament of the person, and the person 's age and well-being. It may only be one event that causes an adjustment disorder or a string of events that wears the person down. Therefore, the stressor can be:

- a global event - war, famine
- a national event - political shifts, economic depression
- a regional event - tornado, earthquake, drought

- a large group event - strike, racial tension, company closing
- a small group event - sport team loss,
- a individual event - illness, a friend moving away, car breaking, house fire

- a time of year - Christmas, summer
- a continuous situation - taking care of small children, substance abusing spouse, financial problems
- a developmental event - getting married, moving, having a child, retiring