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Adjustment Disorder

What is an Adjustment Disorder?

Adjustment Disorder is diagnosed when a person is having difficulty handling a stressor that has occurred in their life during the past three months. Symptoms, such as stress, feeling sad or hopeless, and physical symptoms occur because you are having a hard time coping, and the reaction is stronger or greater than what would be expected for the type of event that occurred. An adjustment disorder usually lasts no longer than three to six months. Adjustment disorders can occur at any age. Approximately 10% of adults and 32% of adolescents are diagnosed with adjustment disorder.

Causes, Incidence, and Risk Factors

Stressors for people of any age include:  

  • Death of a loved one    
  • Divorce or problems with a relationship  
  • General life changes   
  • Illness or other health issues in yourself or a loved one
  • Moving to a different home or a different city
  • Unexpected catastrophes
  • Financial problems

Triggers for Teenagers may include:

  • Family Problems
  • Relationship issues
  • School Problems
  • Sexuality Issues

Symptoms of an Adjustment Disorder

Symptoms of adjustment disorder are often severe enough to affect work, school or social life. On occasion, symptoms can be severe and the person may have thoughts of suicide or make a suicide attempt. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Acting defiant or showing impulsive behavior
  • Feeling nervous or tense
  • Crying, feeling sad or hopeless, and possibly withdrawing from other people
  • Skipped heartbeats and other physical complaints
  • Trembling or twitching


How is an Adjustment Disorder diagnosed?

A mental health professional makes a diagnosis of an adjustment disorder by taking a complete personal history from the individual. It is important that your doctor or therapist  learn about all the details that surround the stressful event. No laboratory tests are required to make the diagnosis of adjustment disorder nor are there any physical conditions that must be met. However, it is very important for your mental health professional not to overlook a physical illness that might imitate or contribute to a psychological disorder.

How is an adjustment disorder treated?

The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms so you can return to a similar level of functioning as before the stressful event occurred. Mental health professionals recommend talk therapy. This type of therapy can help you identify or change your responses to the stressors in your life. Prescription medications may be very useful in easing the depression or the anxiety associated with adjustment disorder.

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