Adjustment disorder is an emotional or behavioral response to a stressful event, such as a divorce or natural disaster. These symptoms are more severe than they should be. This can make it hard to return to normal day-to-day life.
Adjustment disorder is caused by stress or changes in a person's life. Genes and past stressful events may also play a role.
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
Any stressful event can lead to an adjustment disorder. Some examples are:
Loss of work or retirement
Death of loved ones
Major life change, such as marriage, divorce, baby, or moving
Being in the military or going to war
Natural or other widespread disasters
Adjustment disorder starts within 3 months of the event. It can last up to 6 months or more after the stress is gone. Problems can vary but may be:
Feeling sad and hopeless
Loss of motivation and self-esteem
Having a hard time finding pleasure in things that the person used to enjoy
Feel overwhelmed easily
Feeling that nothing will work out well
Bursts of anger
Drug or alcohol misuse
Fighting or seeking revenge
Problems with relationships, school, or work
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You may also be asked about any major changes or problems in daily life. A physical exam may be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.
Treatment can help to ease the impact of the stress. This may lower the effect on day to day life. Choices are:
Mental health counseling to learn about stress and how to cope
Medicines to ease some symptoms
There are no guidelines to prevent this health problem.
Adjustment disorder. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/adjustment-disorder. Accessed November 18, 2020.
Adjustment disorder. Johns Hopkins Psychiatry Guide. Available at: https://www.hopkinsguides.com/hopkins/view/Johns_Hopkins_Psychiatry_Guide/787068/all/Adjustment_Disorder. Accessed November 18, 2020.
Adjustment disorders. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/anxiety-and-stressor-related-disorders/adjustment-disorders. Accessed November 18, 2020.
Bachem R, Casey P. Adjustment disorder: A diagnosis whose time has come. J Affect Disord. 2018 Feb;227:243-253.
Sundquist J, Ohlsson H, et al. Common adult psychiatric disorders in Swedish primary care where most mental health patients are treated. BMC Psychiatry. 2017;17(1):235.
Last reviewed September 2020 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Adrian Preda, MD
Last Updated: 4/21/2021
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