Adjustment Disorder Symptoms & Warning Signs

Understanding Adjustment Disorder

Learn about adjustment disorder

Severe life changes can include a number of different events, including but not limited to, moving to another country, the death of a loved one, losing one’s possessions to natural disaster, job changes, or family changes. Whatever the case might be, the changes that occurred might take a toll on one’s life and overall disposition, which could lead to the onset of adjustment disorder.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition defines adjustment disorder as a common mental illness that develops within three months after one experiences a stressful or uncomfortable event or situation. It might begin as soon as the stressful event occurs or even a few months after.

The symptoms related to adjustment disorders can cause marked upset that is not personally nor culturally normal. This could also lead to impairment at work, within one’s social life, and at home. Thankfully, the symptoms often disappear or become less significant within six months, especially if the individual is not continually exposed to new upsets.

While adjustment disorders are occurring, the individual might feel upset, anxious, or depressed. The individual might also exhibit strange or negative behaviors or act in a manner that is not helpful to his or her family life or career. There are treatments available for relief, however, most individuals with this disorder can find quality recovery through good support and care.


Statistics on adjustment disorder

Adjustment disorder starts when an individual experiences a stressful event or repeated or chronic trauma. The individual might react with emotions or behaviors that lead to difficulty or discomfort in everyday life. Outside of this, there are other risk factors that can increase one’s chances of being diagnosed with adjustment disorder.

Risk Factors:

Many different experiences paired with various stressors can lead to the onset of adjustment disorders. While there is no limit on the kinds of situations that might cause adjustment disorder to develop, some of the events that can cause this disorder to develop can include:

  • Retirement or any major life changes
  • Drastic shifts in living or occupational goals
  • Problems with school or work
  • Community violence or crime
  • Becoming a new parent, or losing a child
  • Business losses or difficulties
  • Conflict in marriage or any relationships
  • End of a romantic relationship
  • Natural disasters such as fire, storm, or flood
  • Diagnosis of a serious or chronic illness

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of adjustment disorder

The effects of adjustment disorder can vary from individual to individual. The type of event that led to the symptoms of the disorder, the individual’s personality, support network, and lifestyle can all affect the severity and type of symptoms that develop in response to the adjustment disorder. Some of the various symptoms of adjustment disorder include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Suicide attempts
  • Decline in work or school performance
  • Skipping work, school, or other important events
  • Refusal to participate in previously enjoyable activities
  • Isolating oneself from friends or family
  • Aggression or uncharacteristic irritability
  • Crying or tearfulness
  • Neglect of daily responsibilities

Physical symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Body tension or inability to relax
  • Body pains such as a headache and stomachache
  • Chest pains or pounding heartbeat at times

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Inability to make quick, good decisions
  • Lapses in sound judgment
  • Forgetfulness or losing items
  • Difficulty in retaining information or recalling memories
  • Lack of concentration when completing tasks
  • Suicidal thoughts

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feeling hopeless or restless
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Nervousness or jumpiness
  • Excessive feelings of dread, worry, or concern
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Unstable emotions


Effects of adjustment disorder

Most commonly, the symptoms of adjustment disorder will not continue past six months. However, there are situations that might keep this condition going past six months because of the presence of an ongoing stressor or trauma. In most instances, the symptoms one experiences can be very uncomfortable and can lead to negative repercussions. Without proper care and treatment, adjustment disorder can lead to the following:

  • Job termination
  • Onset of other mental health disorders
  • Lower performance at work or school
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Substance use or abuse
  • Lowered social contact
  • Unpredictable mood swings
  • Difficulties within or lost interpersonal relationships
  • Financial difficulties

Under this circumstance, obtaining professional help in order to determine if additional treatments are required will help an individual recover from this sort of mental health condition.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring disorders

Adjustment disorder can occur alongside other mental health concerns. According to the American Psychiatric Association, some of the possible co-occurring disorders can include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder