Adjustment Disorder


Adjustment disorders are psychological disturbances that develop after a life stressor.  They may develop after an identifiable stress, such as the death of a loved one, or after an unexpected catastrophe, such as a hurricane.  Depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, behavior problems, and physical complaints are symptoms of an adjustment disorder.  The symptoms usually do not last longer than six months and are treated with therapy and in some cases, short-term medication.  Adjustment disorders usually respond well to treatment.


Adjustment disorders can develop in people of all ages.  It is a very common diagnosis among both males and females.  Adjustment disorders develop after an identifiable life stressor.  For young people this may include starting school, school problems, family conflict, and sexuality issues.  Stressors for adults may include job difficulties, financial problems, marital problems, and divorce.  The death of a loved one, abuse, or unexpected catastrophes, including fire, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, or acts of terrorism may be stressors for people of all ages.  In a given situation, it is difficult to predict which people will develop adjustment disorder and which people will not.  A person’s susceptibility to stress may be affected by many complex factors.


Adjustment disorder develops within three months of an identifiable stressor and does not last longer than six months.  Adjustment disorder can lead to anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances, emotional problems–such as agitation or crying spells–or behavioral or conduct changes–such as acting out or skipping school.  These symptoms may occur individually or in combination with each other.  A person with adjustment disorder may experience physical complaints including heart palpitations, trembling, and twitching. 


You should contact a psychiatrist if you suspect that you or your loved one has adjustment disorder.  You should tell the psychiatrist about your stressful event and symptoms.  The psychiatrist will use structured evaluations, interviews, and behavior analysis to make an assessment.  In some cases, lab tests or a physical examination by a medical doctor may be recommended to rule out a physical problem.


Adjustment disorder typically responds well to treatment.  Individual therapy, group therapy, or both can be helpful.  In some cases, short-term medication is used along with therapy treatment.

Copyright © 2015 – iHealthSpot, Inc. –

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Author Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on 8-26-2015.

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