Network with hundreds of behavioral healthcare professionals and earn up to 5 CEU's.

Call Now

What Is Adjustment Disorder?

An adjustment disorder is an emotional or behavioral reaction to a stressful event or change in a person’s life.

How Common is Adjustment Disorder?

In a 2017 study of 637 patients, it was documented that adjustment disorder affected 11.5 percent of the study pool. The same study also found the disorder to be the most common in the age group ranging from 15 to 25, with that demographic making up nearly 70 percent of those with an adjustment disorder.1

While treatable, adjustment disorders can significantly impact an individual’s mental well-being. 

An adjustment disorder can be either emotional or behavioral, and it most often occurs because of a stressful event or change. While adjustment disorder is common and can happen to anyone at any point given a stressful situation, it can also be seen as unhealthy if it becomes a chronic concern, also known as long-term adjustment disorder. 

Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder (AD)

The symptoms of an adjustment disorder can manifest in several different ways given the six types of adjustment disorders (which are discussed further below). However, while each type may differ slightly in the signs and symptoms, there are a few shared symptoms to keep an eye out for. 

Some of the most common symptoms of adjustment disorder include: 

  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Headaches or stomach aches
  • Palpitations 
  • Withdrawal or isolation from people and social activities
  • Problems sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Lethargy

Adjustment Disorder Causes and Risk Factors

Adjustment disorders can be caused any time an individual is exposed to a sudden amount of stress.2  Some studies show that certain socio-demographic groups are more likely to be affected, especially young students in urban areas. However, anyone can develop this disorder.3

Adjustment disorder can occur in a variety of situations, including

  • Ending of a relationship or marriage
  • Losing or changing jobs
  • Death of a loved one
  • A severe illness (yourself or a loved one)
  • Being a victim of a crime
  • Having an accident
  • Having a significant life change.

How is an Adjustment Disorder Diagnosed?

Adjustment disorder is diagnosed by first eliminating the possibility of any other illnesses that may be causing the symptoms and examining the patient’s history and lifestyle. The diagnosis can be made if the medical professional can remove any other possible causes for the symptoms and the patient lines up with the criteria for an adjustment disorder.4

Who is at Risk of Developing Adjustment Disorder?

Anyone can develop an adjustment disorder. However, those who are often under elevated stress, such as students or those with financial hardships, are more likely to develop this disorder. 

Differences Between Adjustment Disorder, Major Depression, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder

It can be confusing when trying to discern the differences between adjustment disorder, major depression, and generalized anxiety disorder – especially because depression and anxiety can be symptoms of an adjustment disorder.

The most notable differences between these conditions are their cause and duration. Adjustment disorder is the short-term result of stress, while depression and GAD can be chronic conditions caused by various factors, including genetics. 

Differences Between Adjustment Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a chronic condition that develops after an individual is exposed to trauma. Adjustment disorder, however, is a group of symptoms that tend to occur only for a short period following exposure to elevated amounts of stress.

Different Types of Adjustment Disorders

There are six different types of adjustment disorders. Each one manifest differently from other symptoms, though the overall condition is the same. Understanding the different types can help in preventing and treating each one. 

Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood

This type of adjustment disorder pairs many of the traditional symptoms of the disorder with those of depression. Individuals with adjustment disorder with depressed mood are more likely to feel hopeless or sad, and they’re more likely to cry more frequently. This type of AD is also known for reducing joy in activities once found enjoyable. 

Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety

Just as adjustment disorder with depressed mood pairs symptoms of an AD with depression, this type pairs symptoms of an AD with anxiety. Individuals with this type of AD may feel overwhelmed and worried They may also maintain high anxiety levels. This can impact cognition and reduce the ability to concentrate. 

Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood

Adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood is just a combination of the symptoms arising in the previous two AD types. Individuals with this form of adjustment disorder will feel both depressed and anxious. 

Adjustment Disorder with Disturbance of Conduct

The symptoms of this type of AD manifest through behavioral issues. This includes illegal activities such as vandalism and reckless driving. 

Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Disturbance, Emotions, and Conduct

This type of adjustment disorder is a combination of anxiety, depression, and behavioral concerns. Individuals may experience each symptom differently and not always equally. 

Adjustment Disorder Unspecified

Adjustment disorder unspecified lacks the clear guidelines that other types may have. These symptoms are not linked to anything, unlike depressed mood or anxiety. Instead, there may be physical or relationship problems. 

Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment Disorder

How to Prevent Adjustment Disorders

Like other mental conditions, adjustment disorders can reduce the daily quality of living. However, there are ways to help prevent it before and after a stressful event. 

The best way to prevent adjustment disorders is to establish a healthy, safe foundation for your physical and mental well-being. This can appear in many ways, including

  • Developing a solid network of people to support you
  • Looking for the positive or humor in challenging situations
  • Living healthfully
  • Establishing good self-esteem.

Get Help with Adjustment Disorder at Anew Treatment Center

An adjustment disorder can make it difficult to enjoy daily life. It can also strain an individual and their personal and professional life. However, Anew Treatment Center can help by providing high-quality professional mental health services designed to aid in the treatment of conditions just like adjustment disorders.

While treatment at Anew Treatment Center may not be instantaneous, which is valid for any healthcare facility, it can assist in restoring your daily quality of life. 

Learn More About Our Treatment Programs

Our team is ready to talk and determine how we can help. Rest assured your call is confidential. We're here for you.