Causes & Effects of Adjustment Disorder

Understanding Adjustment Disorder

Learn About Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by the development of emotional and behavioral troubles as a result of experiencing one or more major stressor. The symptoms that occur are clinically significant and can include impairment in occupational functioning, social interaction, and/or other parts of everyday functioning. In addition, the symptoms that manifest demonstrate a clear level of upset in the individual that is disproportionate to the severity of the circumstance that lead to the reaction.

There are dozens of occurrences that can lead to the development of adjustment disorder, and the upset that is experienced as a result will vary from person to person. In some instances, the symptoms will develop shortly after the stressor occurs, while in other instances, they might not present for nearly three months following the stressor. Thankfully, the symptoms of adjustment disorder often wear off within six months, except in those circumstances where individuals are exposed to continued or recurrent stressors.

Obtaining treatment to address the concerns that develop is imperative to prevent the duration of symptoms and to offer individuals the relief they need from the upset they are suffering.


Statistics of Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorder is an extremely common disorder in people of all ages. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association states that within inpatient hospital settings, it is often the most frequently diagnosed disorder, with nearly 50% of individuals who are receiving care having a diagnosis of adjustment disorder.

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes & Risk Factors of Adjustment Disorder

The development of adjustment disorder occurs when an individual suffers an environmental stressor, or a number of stressors, that cause him or her to respond with upsetting emotional or behavioral symptoms. Those who are subjected to negative life circumstances or who are chronically exposed to stressful situations are at a greater risk for suffering the onset of this disorder.

Adjustment disorder can result from a number of different types of circumstances and might be the product of one specific stressor or continued stressor.

Risk Factors:

  • Getting married
  • Becoming a parent
  • Failing to attain occupational goals
  • Significant problems in school
  • Changes in school
  • Leaving or reentering a parental home
  • Retirement
  • Experiencing a natural disaster
  • Suffering from a chronic and/or painful illness
  • Loss of a parent or other loved one
  • Living in a neighborhood that has a high rate of crime or violence
  • Business difficulties
  • Termination of a romantic relationship
  • Marital difficulties

Signs & Symptoms

Signs & Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder

The kinds of symptoms that are displayed when an individual is suffering from adjustment disorder will vary from person to person depending on a number of factors. These factors can include one’s age, the circumstances surrounding the event that caused the disorder, and the support network available to him or her. Some of the many symptoms can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Tearfulness
  • Onset of self-harming behaviors
  • Making attempts at suicide
  • Failure to attend work or school
  • Drop in performance at work or school
  • No longer adhering to other daily responsibilities
  • No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Isolating oneself from friends and family members
  • Aggressive outbursts

Physical symptoms:

  • Other bodily aches and pains
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Muscle tension
  • Persistent headaches
  • Chest pains
  • Sleep disturbances

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Struggling to make good decisions
  • Experiencing memory disturbances
  • Experiencing difficulty concentrating
  • Suffering from an inability to use sound judgment and reasoning

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of nervousness
  • Excessive feelings of worry, concern, or dread
  • Depressed feelings
  • Anxious feelings
  • Emotional instability


Effects of Adjustment Disorder

Due to the nature of adjustment disorder, the symptoms that impact individuals who suffer from this mental illness often do not last longer than six months following the event that triggered their onset. However, in circumstances where individuals are continually exposed to the stressors that led them to develop an adjustment disorder, and treatment is not obtained, symptoms include, however are not limited to, the following:

  • Beginning to abuse drugs or alcohol
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Suicidal behaviors
  • Disturbed interpersonal relationships
  • Onset of symptoms of other mental health disorders
  • Persistent, unpredictable mood swings
  • Decreased performance at work or school
  • Decline in social interactions

Co-Occurring Disorders

Adjustment & Co-Occurring Disorders

Sadly, adjustment disorder is a condition that can co-occur alongside of other mental health conditions, according to the American Psychiatric Association. Some examples of co-occurring disorders include, however are not limited to, the following:

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

Wilmington Treatment Center saved my life, plain and simple. I arrived broken, lost and with no hope but Wilmington introduced me to a better way of living and I owe a huge part of my life to them.

– Mallory R.
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