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