Adjustment Disorders

What are Adjustment Disorders?

Adjustment disorders are a type of mental illness that is stress related. They develop when you are moving through a difficult and stressful period in your life and you are finding it difficult to cope.

An adjustment disorder occurs when you have a stronger reaction than what would be expected for an event that you are going through. Daily routines, for example, may become overwhelming, or you might start making decisions that are reckless because you are having such a difficult time adjusting to a change.

Some of the causes of adjustment disorders include divorce or relationship issues, the death of a loved one, illness that affects you or someone you love, moving, financial troubles or employment problems, and conflicts with others.

What are the Symptoms of Adjustment Disorders?

There are a variety of emotional and behavioral symptoms associated with adjustment disorders.

Symptoms include

  • Not enjoying things that you used to enjoy
  • Feeling sad, nervous, jittery, anxious, worried, desperate, overwhelmed, or hopeless
  • Having difficulty concentrating and/or sleeping
  • Experiencing crying spells
  • Having thoughts of committing suicide
  • Driving recklessly
  • Fighting with others
  • Ignoring your responsibilities and avoiding friends and family
  • Vandalizing property
  • Performing poorly at work or in school

Adjustment Disorders Causes

The cause can depend on the exact diagnosis, but generally, adjustment disorders are triggered by any of a large number of life changes that can cause stress.

A list of these stressors includes:

  • The end of a relationship (dating or marriage)
  • Losing a job or changing jobs (within a company or at a new one)
  • The death of a close friend or family member
  • Being diagnosed with a serious illness (or a loved one being diagnosed with an illness)
  • Being the victim of a crime
  • Being in an accident of some kind
  • Getting married, becoming a parent, moving to another city, or some other major life change
  • Surviving a natural or man-made disaster.

Events like these are more likely to trigger an adjustment disorder if the person happens to have deficient social skills or has not learned effective methods of coping with stressful situations. However, even a person that has highly developed social skills and is usually able to cope with difficult circumstances can develop adjustment disorders, depending on the severity of the situation.

How are Adjustment Disorders Treated?


To overcome adjustment disorders, psychotherapy is highly recommended. This could be in the form of family therapy, group therapy, or individual therapy. It is designed to provide you with assistance in getting your normal life back, while also giving you the emotional support that you need.


When therapy is not enough, anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications may be taken to ease anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and depression.

Adjustment Disorders Prevention

Life is unpredictable, and there is no telling when some events will occur or if they will trigger an adjustment disorder. Any person at any age can develop them. For those reasons, prevention of the disorder is generally not possible. Often, the discussion revolves around preventing it from becoming another more serious mental health issue (for example, PTSD).

One of the best chances a person has at stopping an adjustment disorder from happening (or turning into anything else) is in learning the social skills they may lack as well as creating healthy methods of coping with stressors. This is often done with the help of a counselor or other mental health professional.

Last Reviewed:
September 11, 2016
Last Updated:
November 02, 2017