Adjustment Disorder, Symptoms, Causes, and Effective Treatments

One common psychological response to such stressors is an adjustment disorder. This article provides an understanding of this disorder.


Adjustment Disorder Overview

One common psychological response to such stressors is an adjustment disorder. This article aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of this disorder, shedding light on its symptoms, underlying causes, and available treatment options. These are psychological conditions characterized by emotional and behavioral reactions to identifiable stressors or life changes. Two common subtypes of this disorder are adjustment disorder with anxiety and adjustment disorder with depressed mood. By exploring the intricacies of this condition, readers will gain valuable insights into recognizing and addressing this disorder in themselves or their loved ones, ultimately promoting mental health and well-being.

What is Adjustment Disorder?

It is a mental disorder characterized by an emotional or behavioral reaction to a traumatic event or major life change. It occurs when a person has difficulty transitioning to or managing a specific stressor, such as a significant life event, relationship issues, work-related challenges, or financial problems.

Adjustment Disorder Symptoms

The symptoms of adjustment disorder can vary widely depending on the individual and the specific stressor or life event. However, here are some common symptoms associated with adjustment disorder:

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Feelings of sadness or depressed mood.
  • Anxiety, excessive worry, or nervousness.
  • Frequent episodes of crying.
  • Feelings of hopelessness or despair.
  • Irritability, anger, or hostility.
  • Overwhelm or feeling out of control.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed.
  • Mood swings or emotional instability.

Behavioral Symptoms:

  • Social withdrawal or isolation.
  • Avoidance of certain people, places, or situations.
  • Changes in appetite, either significant increase or decrease.
  • Sleep disturbances, such as insomnia or excessive sleep.
  • Restlessness or agitation.
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior.
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
  • A decline in school or work performance.

Physical Symptoms:

  • Headaches or migraines.
  • Stomachaches or gastrointestinal problems.
  • Fatigue or low energy levels.
  • Muscle tension or aches.
  • Changes in appetite or weight.
  • Weakened immune system, leading to increased susceptibility to illness.

Adjustment disorder symptoms vary per individual. Symptoms may appear within three months of the stressor’s start and decrease as the person adjusts or the stressor is eliminated.

The combination of anxiety and depressive symptoms can significantly impact an individual's ability to function in various areas of life, such as work, school, relationships, and self-care. Difficulties in concentration, decision-making, and maintaining social connections may arise.
The combination of anxiety and depressive symptoms can significantly impact an individual’s ability to function in various areas of life, such as work, school, relationships, and self-care. Difficulties in concentration, decision-making, and maintaining social connections may arise.

Anxiety Fact Sheet

Anxiety Disorders Overview

Anxiety disorders are a group of mental health conditions characterized by excessive and persistent feelings of fear, worry, and anxiety. They can significantly impact a person’s thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and physical well-being.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

Anxiety symptoms encompass a range of emotional, cognitive, and physical manifestations. Emotionally, individuals with anxiety may experience a constant sense of unease, restlessness, or irritability. They may also have heightened feelings of fear or apprehension that can be overwhelming. Cognitively, anxiety can lead to racing or intrusive thoughts, excessive worry about future events, difficulty concentrating, and an inability to control anxious thoughts. Physically, anxiety often presents symptoms such as a rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest tightness, sweating, trembling or shaking, dizziness, nausea, headaches, muscle tension, and gastrointestinal distress. These symptoms can significantly impact daily functioning and overall well-being. Recognizing these signs of anxiety is important in seeking appropriate support and interventions to manage and alleviate anxiety-related distress.

Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood

Adjustment disorder with depressed mood is a specific subtype of adjustment disorder characterized by the presence of depressive symptoms in response to a stressor or life event. Individuals with this subtype may experience persistent sadness, hopelessness, and a general lack of interest or pleasure in activities they used to enjoy. They may also have changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, difficulty concentrating, and low energy levels. The depressed mood can significantly impact their daily functioning and overall quality of life.

Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood

Adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood is a subtype characterized by anxiety and depressive symptoms in response to a stressor or life event. Individuals experiencing this subtype often exhibit persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, loss of interest, excessive worry, restlessness, and a sense of unease. They may feel overwhelmed by negative emotions and experience mood swings.

Adjustment Disorder Unspecified

An unspecified is a subtype of adjustment disorder where the specific symptoms or characteristics do not fit into any other defined subtype. It is used when the symptoms or reactions to a stressor do not align with the criteria for adjustment disorder with depressed mood, adjustment disorder with anxiety, or other specific subtypes.

Individuals with adjustment disorder unspecified may still experience emotional and behavioral difficulties in response to a stressor, but their symptoms may not neatly fit into a specific category. The symptoms can vary widely and may include a combination of emotional distress, anxiety, depressive feelings, irritability, or other reactions to the stressor.

Adjustment disorder undefined does not prescribe treatment, but it emphasizes the necessity for supporting measures and personalized therapy. Mental health specialists may analyze the individual’s requirements and provide a customized treatment plan.

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Anxiety Disorders Statistics

Uncover the numbers behind anxiety. Global burden, work impairment, economic costs, and the co-occurrence with depression—discover the profound impact on individuals and society. Understanding the statistics surrounding adjustment disorder provides valuable insights into the prevalence and impact of this mental health condition. Adjustment disorder is a common psychological disorder that occurs in response to identifiable stressors or life changes. By exploring the statistics related to adjustment disorder, we can gain a better understanding of its occurrence, risk factors, and implications for individuals and society as a whole.

  • Adjustment disorder is one of the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders. Studies suggest it accounts for many mental health diagnoses, particularly in clinical and outpatient settings.
  • Frequently, adjustment disorder co-occurs with conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, and substance use disorders. This suggests a substantial overlap and shared risk factors between these conditions.
  • While adjustment disorder is typically considered a short-term condition, if left untreated or if the stressor persists, it can lead to chronic adjustment disorder or the development of other mental health disorders. Early intervention and appropriate support are crucial in promoting a positive prognosis.

264 million

Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions worldwide, affecting a significant portion of the population. An estimated 264 million people globally were living with anxiety disorders in 2017.

Source: WHO

50%

Anxiety and depression often coexist. It is reported that approximately 50% of individuals diagnosed with an anxiety disorder are also diagnosed with depression at some point in their lives.

Source: ADAA

$42 billion

The economic costs associated with anxiety disorders are substantial. Anxiety disorders cost more than $42 billion annually in healthcare expenses and lost productivity in the United States.

Source: Journal of Clinical Psychiatry


Causes of Adjustment Disorder

  1. Life Transitions: Significant life changes such as starting a new job, moving to a new city, getting married, divorced, retiring, or becoming a parent can be stressful and disrupt one’s sense of stability and routine.
  2. Relationship Issues: Difficulties in personal relationships, including conflict, separation, divorce, loss of a loved one, or strained friendships, can contribute to the development of a disorder.
  3. Academic or Occupational Challenges: Academic pressures, job loss, work-related stress, or experiencing significant changes in work responsibilities can lead to adjustment difficulties.
  4. Financial Problems: Financial hardships, bankruptcy, or sudden financial changes can create significant stress and impact an individual’s well-being.
  5. Traumatic Events: Exposure to traumatic events, such as accidents, natural disasters, physical or emotional abuse, or witnessing violence, can trigger symptoms.
  6. Health-related Issues: Diagnosis of a serious illness, chronic pain, undergoing medical treatments, or experiencing a significant decline in health can be challenging and lead to adjustment difficulties.
  7. Cultural or Environmental Changes: Relocation to a new culture, migration, displacement, or experiencing discrimination can contribute to it, particularly for individuals undergoing significant cultural or environmental shifts.

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Adjustment Disorder with Disturbance of Conduct

  1. Aggressive or confrontational behavior: This can involve physical aggression towards others, verbal hostility, or a pattern of defiance and opposition.
  2. Conduct problems: Individuals may engage in rule-breaking behavior, such as lying, stealing, truancy, or skipping school. They may disregard authority figures, show a lack of remorse, or have difficulty adhering to social or legal norms.
  3. Impulsivity: Acting without considering the consequences, engaging in risky behaviors, or displaying impulsive decision-making can be present in this disorder with disturbance of conduct.
  4. Social problems: Difficulties with peer relationships, social withdrawal, isolation, or engaging in bullying or manipulative behaviors may be observed.

Chronic Adjustment Disorder

This refers to a prolonged or persistent form of adjustment disorder where the symptoms and difficulties associated with the condition extend beyond what is typically expected. While this disorder is generally considered to be a short-term condition that resolves once the stressor is addressed or the individual adapts to the new circumstances, It is characterized by the persistence or recurrence of symptoms for an extended period of time.

Individuals with chronic adjustment disorder may continue to experience emotional and behavioral symptoms, even after the initial stressor has resolved or changed. These symptoms can significantly impact their daily functioning, relationships, and overall well-being. They may struggle with ongoing distress, difficulties in coping with stressors, and challenges in adapting to new situations.

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It’s crucial to conduct thorough research and consult with healthcare professionals or mental health organizations in your area to find a suitable adjustment disorder treatment center.

  1. Supportive Interventions: Creating a supportive environment is crucial in treating adjustment disorder. This can involve educating individuals about the nature of adjustment disorder, providing empathy and validation for their experiences, and offering practical assistance and resources to address the stressors they are facing.
  2. Psychotherapy: Different forms of therapy can be effective in treating adjustment disorder. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to help individuals identify and challenge negative thought patterns and develop more adaptive coping strategies. Problem-solving therapy can help individuals address specific stressors and develop problem-solving skills. Other types of therapy, such as interpersonal or supportive therapy, may also be beneficial in addressing relationship issues and enhancing social support.
  3. Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to manage specific symptoms of adjustment disorder, such as anxiety, depression, or sleep disturbances. Antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications may be considered, and the decision to use medication is made on an individual basis, taking into account the severity of symptoms and the individual’s overall health.
  4. Self-Care and Stress Management: Encouraging self-care practices and stress management techniques is essential to treatment. This may involve promoting healthy lifestyle habits, such as regular exercise, sufficient sleep, and a balanced diet. Relaxation techniques, mindfulness exercises, and stress-reduction strategies can also help manage symptoms.
  5. Social Support: Building a strong support system is important in the treatment of adjustment disorder. Engaging in activities and maintaining connections with loved ones, friends, or support groups can provide emotional support and validation, reducing feelings of isolation and enhancing coping resources.

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  1. What is adjustment disorder?

    A psychological condition is an emotional or behavioral response to a stressful event or life change. It occurs when an individual has difficulty coping with or adjusting to a specific stressor, such as a major life event, relationship issues, work-related challenges, or financial problems.

  2. What are the criteria for adjustment disorder?

    The criteria for adjustment disorder, as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), include the development of emotional or behavioral symptoms within three months of a stressor or significant life event, the symptoms being out of proportion to the severity of the stressor, and significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning as a result of the symptoms.

Watch Powerful Coping Skills for Anxiety. Top Mental Health Tips & Anxiety Tips Advice from a Therapist.


“Anxiety, when gone untreated, can increase over time. So here are four tips to calm your everyday anxiety. Take a breath. Do something that you enjoy. Remove yourself from the situation and go for a walk. Doing these four things gives you a better chance of calming your anxiety.”

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Search We Level Up WA Mental Health Adjustment Disorder Topics & Resources
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  1. National Institute of Mental Health – “Anxiety Disorders” Link: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml Learn More: is anxiety a disability.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – “Mental Health – Anxiety and Depression” Link: https://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth/learn/index.htm Learn More: is anxiety a disability
  3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute – “Coping With Stress and Anxiety” Link: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/coping-with-stress-and-anxiety Learn More: is anxiety a disability
  4. MedlinePlus – “Anxiety” Link: https://medlineplus.gov/anxiety.html Learn More: is anxiety a disability
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – “Anxiety Disorders” Link: https://www.samhsa.gov/conditions/anxiety-disorders Learn More: is anxiety a disability
  6. National Institute on Aging – “Anxiety Disorders in Older Adults” Link: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/anxiety-disorders-older-adults Learn More: is anxiety a disability
  7. Office on Women’s Health – “Anxiety Disorders” Link: https://www.womenshealth.gov/mental-health/mental-health-conditions/anxiety-disorders Learn More: is anxiety a disability
  8. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health – “Anxiety” Link: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/anxiety-at-a-glance Learn More: is anxiety a disability
  9. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – “Anxiety Disorders” Link: https://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/anxiety.asp
  10. National Library of Medicine – “Anxiety” Link: https://medlineplus.gov/anxiety.html Learn More: is anxiety a disability