Click For Appointment

Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment Disorder:

if is a continuous journey filled with various twists and turns, and our ability to adapt to change plays a pivotal role in maintaining our mental well-being. However, sometimes these changes can overwhelm us, leading to emotional and psychological distress. This is where the concept of adjustment disorder comes into play – a condition that highlights the human struggle to cope with life’s transitions.

Defining Adjustment Disorder:

Adjustment disorder, also known as stress response syndrome, is a psychological condition that manifests in response to significant life changes or stressors. These stressors can range from personal relationships and career shifts to academic challenges and health issues. Unlike other mental health disorders, adjustment disorder is time-limited and occurs within three months of the triggering event.

Recognizing the Symptoms:

The symptoms of adjustment disorder can vary widely from person to person and may include emotional, behavioral, and physical manifestations. Common emotional symptoms include feelings of sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, and an inability to enjoy once-pleasurable activities. Behavioral symptoms can involve withdrawal from social interactions, irritability, recklessness, and changes in eating or sleeping patterns. Physical symptoms might include headaches, digestive issues, and general tension.

Subtypes of Adjustment Disorder:

To better understand the impact of adjustment disorder, mental health professionals have identified six subtypes, each characterized by specific symptoms and stressors:

  1. Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood: Primarily marked by feelings of sadness, tearfulness, and hopelessness.
  2. Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety: Characterized by excessive worry, nervousness, and restlessness.
  3. Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood: A combination of symptoms from both the anxiety and depressed mood subtypes.
  4. Adjustment Disorder with Disturbance of Conduct: Involves behavioral issues such as defiance, impulsive actions, and disregard for rules and norms.
  5. Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Disturbance of Emotions and Conduct: A blend of emotional and behavioral symptoms, often resulting in conflicts with others.
  6. Adjustment Disorder Unspecified: When symptoms do not clearly align with any of the above subtypes


Your healthcare provider will complete a full physical and mental health exam. They may consider the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) from the American Psychiatric Association.

To be diagnosed with adjustment disorder, you have to meet the following five DSM-5 criteria:

  • Your emotional or behavioral symptoms developed within three months of the start of the stressful event in your life.
  • Your emotional or behavioral symptoms are clinically significant. This means that your distress must exceed what would normally be expected and/or the distress is causing significant problems in your work, home or social life.
  • Your symptoms don’t meet the criteria for another mental disorder and are not a flare-up or worsening of an existing mental health problem.
  • Your symptoms are not part of a normal grieving process.
  • Your symptoms don’t last more than six months after the triggering event has ended.

Acute adjustment disorder means your symptoms last less than six months. Chronic adjustment disorder means your symptoms last six months or longer.

Your healthcare provider should also take into account your cultural background in determining if your response to a stressor is in excess of what would be expected.

 Causes and Risk Factors:

Several factors contribute to the development of adjustment disorder. Notably, the severity of the stressor and the individual’s coping skills play significant roles. Those with limited social support networks, history of trauma, or preexisting mental health conditions are at a higher risk of developing adjustment disorder.

Seeking Help and Treatment:

Addressing adjustment disorder is crucial to prevent it from escalating into more serious mental health issues. Mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists, can provide support and guidance. Treatment approaches may include psychotherapy, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps individuals reframe negative thoughts and develop healthy coping strategies. In some cases, short-term medication might be recommended to alleviate symptoms. Recovery from adjustment disorder involves a combination of self-care, professional guidance, and time. Developing strong coping skills, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and fostering social connections can aid in the healing process. As the individual gains insights into their emotional responses and develops adaptive strategies, the symptoms typically diminish. However, if the symptoms persist or worsen, further assessment might be needed to rule out other underlying mental health conditions.

How is adjustment disorder treated?

Adjustment disorders are best managed if caught and treated early. Talk therapy (psychotherapy) is the main treatment. Since a situation or stress is what causes adjustment disorder, having someone to talk to that you trust and getting the tools you need to learn how to better cope with the situation can be really helpful. Individual, family or group therapy (support groups) are also helpful. Family therapy is often used if the person is a child or teenager.


When medications are needed, anti-anxiety medicines (benzodiazepines) are the main drugs used to treat adjustment disorder. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe medication to help you sleep. Some providers may also try antidepressant medicines. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI) are the drug classes more frequently tried.


Adjustment disorder is a reminder of our innate vulnerability to life’s changes. While it can be challenging to navigate through, recognizing the symptoms, seeking help, and implementing healthy coping mechanisms can pave the way for a smoother transition and eventual recovery. By acknowledging that everyone faces moments of difficulty when adjusting to new circumstances, we can better understand the importance of providing support and compassion to those grappling with this common human experience.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *