Signs & Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder

Significant changes in life can include, but are not limited to, migrating to another country, losing one’s possessions due to a natural calamity, death of a loved one, job changes, and family changes. When such upheavals occur, they might impact a person’s life and overall disposition to the degree that the individual develops adjustment disorder.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, adjustment disorder is a common form of mental illness that occurs within three months after an individual suffers an uncomfortable or stressful event.

The symptoms of adjustment disorder create a significant and marked distress that is neither personally nor culturally normal. This could also lead to dysfunction in social, work, or family life. Thankfully, these symptoms often disappear or become less significant within six months, especially if the individual is not exposed to on-going stressors.

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

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Statistics

Adjustment disorder is one of the most frequently diagnosed mental health conditions impacting all age groups. This condition also accounts for nearly 20% of all outpatient mental health support visits and 50% of inpatient settings.

Causes and Risk Factors for Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorder starts when an individual experiences a stressful event or chronic/repeated trauma, thereby increasing the risk of developing this condition. The individual might respond with behaviors or emotions that lead to discomfort or difficulty in everyday life. Outside of this, below are some other risk factors that increase one’s likelihood of getting diagnosed with adjustment disorder.

Risk Factors:

A handful of experiences paired with 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 occur and lead to this disorder can include:

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

Signs and Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder

The effects of adjustment disorder vary from individual to individual. The kind of event that led to the symptoms of the disorder to develop, the individual’s overall personality, and his or her lifestyle, can all affect the type and severity of symptoms that arise as a result of adjustment disorder. Some of the various 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:

  • Body tension or inability to relax
  • Body pains such as headaches and stomachaches
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Chest pains or pounding heartbeat

Cognitive symptoms:

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

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feeling hopeless or restless
  • Excessive feelings of dread, worry, or concern
  • Sudden mood changes
  • Nervousness or jumpiness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Unstable emotions
If you feel that you are in crisis, or are having thoughts about hurting yourself or others, please call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Effects of Adjustment Disorder

Typically, the symptoms of adjustment disorder will not continue for longer than six months. However, there are situations that might make this condition continue on for longer than six months because of the presence of continued trauma or stress. In many instances, the symptoms can be highly uncomfortable and can lead to a series of unfortunate outcomes. Without the correct attention and care, adjustment disorder could lead to the following:

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

In this instance, seeking professional care in order to determine if additional treatment is required will help an individual recover from this mental health condition.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Adjustment disorder might occur simultaneously with other mental health concerns. The American Psychiatric Association listed some 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
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