Adjustment Disorder Signs & Symptoms

The signs, symptoms, and effects of adjustment disorder can be different for every person impacted. Learning about adjustment disorder is one of the first steps towards getting better.

Understanding Adjustment Disorder

Learn about adjustment disorder

Significant life changes, such as migrating to another country, losing one’s possessions to a natural event, death of a loved one, job changes, or family changes, can take a toll on one’s life and overall disposition, which can lead to the onset of adjustment disorder.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, adjustment disorder is a common mental health illness that occurs within three months after an individual experiences a stressful or uncomfortable situation. It can begin as soon as the event occurs or even a few months after it happens.

The symptoms of adjustment disorder cause a significant and marked upset that is neither culturally or personally normal. This could also cause impairment in one’s family, work, or social life. Thankfully, however, these symptoms often disappear or become less significant within six months, especially if the individual is not being continually exposed to new stressors.

While adjustment disorders are active, the individual might feel very anxious, depressed, or uncomfortable. The individual might also display unhealthy or odd behaviors or act in a manner that is not helpful to his or her family or work life. There are treatments available for relief, and most individuals with adjustment disorders find quality recovery with support and care.


Adjustment disorder statistics

Adjustment disorder is one of the most common mental health diagnosis impacting all ages. This condition is seen in nearly 20% of all outpatient mental health support visits and in 50% of inpatient (overnight) settings.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for adjustment disorder

Adjustment disorder starts when an individual suffers a stressful event or chronic or repeated trauma, thereby increasing the risk of developing this disorder. The individual might respond with behaviors or emotions that cause challenge or discomfort within everyday life. Aside from this, below are some other risk factors that increase one’s likelihood of becoming diagnosed with adjustment disorder.

Risk Factors:

A series of different experiences plus numerous stressors might lead to the onset of adjustment disorder. While there is no limit on the types of situations that might cause adjustment disorder, some of the events that can lead to adjustment disorder can include:

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

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 has caused the onset of the symptoms of the disorder, the person’s personality, support network, and lifestyle can all affect the severity of and type of symptoms that develop because of the adjustment disorder. Some of the varied symptoms of adjustment disorder can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

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

Physical symptoms:

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

Cognitive symptoms:

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

Psychosocial symptoms:

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


Effects of adjustment disorder

In most cases, the symptoms of adjustment disorder will not continue for longer than six months. However, there are situations that can make this condition continue past six months because of the presence of other stressors or trauma. For most, the symptoms can be highly uncomfortable and might lead to unfortunate outcomes. Without proper attention and care, adjustment disorder can lead to:

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

In this case, obtaining professional treatment in order to determine if other treatments are required will help an individual recover from this sort of mental health condition.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Adjustment disorder and co-occurring disorders

Adjustment disorder might happen at the same time as other mental health concerns. The American Psychiatric Association lists many of the possible co-occurring disorders such as:

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

Marks of Quality Care
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
  • Pennsylvania Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs
  • Glasser Quality Organization
  • The Jason Foundation