Adjustment Disorders: Causes and Treatment


What Are Adjustment Disorders?

Adjustment disorders are a group of conditions that can occur when one has difficulty coping with a stressful life event such as the death of a loved one, relationship troubles, or job loss. Their inability to adjust to a stressful event can trigger some psychological symptoms and may even cause physical symptoms too. Generally, there are six types of adjustment disorders, each with their unique symptoms. Adjustment disorders can affect people of all ages, and have various treatment options such as therapy and medication. These disorders would usually last less than six months, however, the symptoms may persist.

Symptoms of Adjustment Disorders

Adjustment disorders have mental and physical symptoms that occur while or immediately after experiencing a stressful event. Even though the disorders last no longer than six months, the symptoms may remain if the stressor isn’t removed.

Here are some of the mental symptoms of adjustment disorders:

  • crying
  • anxiousness
  • lack of concentration
  • loss of self-esteem
  • suicidal thoughts
  • withdrawn attitude
  • rebellious or impulsive actions
  • feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or being trapped

There are also some physical symptoms:

  • body pain or soreness
  • indigestion
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • muscle twitches or trembling

6 Types of Adjustment Disorders

Let`s discuss the six types of adjustment disorders and their symptoms.

Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood

People who suffer this type of adjustment disorder may have feelings of sadness and hopelessness. They may also cry often and realize that they no longer enjoy their regular activities. This would usually cause feelings of depression.

Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety

People who are diagnosed with adjustment disorder with anxiety would usually feel anxious, overwhelmed, and worried. They also have issues with memory and concentration. This may affect them at school and at work. Children who suffer from this disorder usually do so as a result of separation anxiety from parents and loved ones.

Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood

sadPeople who suffer from this type of adjustment disorder often suffer depression and anxiety and suffer symptoms of both types of adjustment disorder.

Adjustment Disorder with Disturbance of Conduct

The symptoms of this type of adjustment disorder are behavioral issues like fighting and reckless behavior. Teens with this disorder may frequently miss school, vandalize property, or steal.

Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Disturbance of Emotions and Conduct

This adjustment disorder usually comes with anxiety, depression, and behavioral problems.

Adjustment Disorder Unspecified

People who suffer from adjustment disorder unspecified have symptoms that aren’t like those of the other types of adjustment disorders. Some of these may be physical symptoms or problems with family, work, and friends.

Causes of Adjustment Disorders

There are various stressful events that can cause adjustment disorders. The common ones in adults are:

  • moving to a new house or place
  • sudden disasters
  • money troubles or fears
  • relationship issues or divorce
  • major life changes
  • death of a family member or friend

Common causes of adjustment disorders in children and teenagers are:

  • anxiety over sexuality
  • family fights or problems
  • problems in school

Anyone can develop adjustment disorders. Some people who experience certain stressors may have adjustment disorders, while others who have the same stressors may not. There isn’t a way to tell which sufferers of certain stressors will suffer adjustment disorders. The main determinants are their social skills and coping methods.

How to Diagnose Adjustment Disorders

Before anyone is diagnosed with an adjustment disorder, they must meet certain criteria:

  • experienced psychological or behavioral symptoms within three months of identifiable stressors
  • experience more stress than is ordinary in response to certain stressors

How to Treat Adjustment Disorders

hospitalIf you receive an adjustment disorder diagnosis, you might need a short-term treatment or treat it over an extended period of time. The common treatment options are therapy, medications, or a combination of both.


Therapy is the primary treatment for adjustment disorders. Patients might need to see a mental health professional such as a psychologist or a psychiatrist. Therapy sessions will enable sufferers to function normally again. Therapists will also help sufferers develop skills to cope with future stressful situations.

There are various therapies used to treat adjustment disorders:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy
  • interpersonal psychotherapy
  • crisis intervention
  • family and group therapies
  • support groups specific to the cause of the adjustment disorder


There are cases when medications are required to treat certain symptoms of adjustment disorders such as depression, insomnia, and anxiety. Some of these medications are:

  • SSRIs or SNRIs, such as venlafaxine (Effexor XR) or sertraline (Zoloft)
  • nonbenzodiazepine anxiolytics, such as gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • benzodiazepines, such as lorazepam (Ativan) and alprazolam (Xanax)

How to Prevent Adjustment Disorders

There’s no hard and fast rule to preventing adjustment disorders, however, you can learn to cope with it and be resilient so you can deal with the stressors. Here are ways to become resilient:

  • live healthily
  • have a good self-esteem
  • look for the positive or humor in difficult situations
  • develop a strong network of people who can support you

Some Mental Health Facts

  • The rate of mental health disorders doubles for people who have experienced a major disaster.
  • Many people believe that mental illness patients are usually violent, however, this may not be so true, as only 3-5% of violent acts are attributed to people with severe mental illness.
  • Genetics, injury, illness, and traumatic life experiences are common causes of mental illness.
  • One in five Americans has experienced some form of mental illness.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the world and is the cause of over 800,000 deaths globally every year.
  • Only 44% of adults with diagnosable mental illnesses receive treatment.
  • There are various treatment options for mental health problems, some of which are OTC medication, therapy, and yoga.
  • One in 10 young people has experienced major depression.
  • Members of the LGBTQ community are twice as likely as straight people to suffer mental illnesses.
  • Mental illnesses can affect people of any race, religion, age, or social class.
  • Depression is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.
  • Getting immediate medical attention to trauma can prevent mental health disorders, especially in children and adolescents.
  • 50% of adults in the U.S. who have had a problem with substance abuse also suffer from mental illness.
  • About 152 million people are expected to suffer from some form of dementia by 2050.
  • Annual costs of dementia are expected to reach $2 trillion as early as 2030.
  • “Eco-anxiety” is fast affecting more people, and young people are particularly affected.
  • Depression, anxiety, eating, and bipolar disorders are more prevalent among women, whereas drug use disorders and schizophrenia are more common in men.
  • About 50% of the cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and 75% of them develop before the age of 25.
  • In 2019, 68% of the world’s population considered climate change to be a major threat.
  • Diet has a major impact on mental health.
  • There is a strong correlation between social status and the development of common mental disorders.
  • About 8.9 million Latinx/Hispanic Americans have a mental illness.
  • About 2.2 million people in the Asian American/Pacific Islander communities have a mental illness.
  • 9.8 million US adults have had suicidal thoughts.
  • About 6.8 million African Americans have a mental illness.
  • 44 million US adults have a mental illness.
  • Nearly 1 in 5 American adults have a diagnosable mental health condition every year.
  • 1 in 25 US adults has experienced severe mental illness.
  • 17% of children between ages 6 and 17 experience a mental health disorder.