Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorders involve markedly distressing and impairing emotional and/or behavioral symptoms caused by an identifiable stressor.

See Overview of Trauma- and Stress-Related Disorders.

Individuals often become sad, angry, or otherwise upset when unpleasant things happen.

Such reactions are not considered a disorder unless the reaction is more intense than what is typically expected in the individual’s culture, or when the individual’s ability to function is significantly impaired.

Stressors may be:

  • A single, discrete event (for example, losing a job);
  • Multiple events (for example, both financial and romantic setbacks); or
  • Ongoing problems (for example, caring for a significantly disabled family member).

Stressors do not have to be overwhelming traumatic events as in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Death of a loved one can be a precipitant of an adjustment disorder.

However, medical professionals must take into account the wide variety of grief reactions considered typical in different cultures and diagnose a disorder only if the bereavement response is beyond what is expected.

Adjustment disorders are common and are present in an estimated 5 to 20% of outpatient mental health visits.

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