Causes & Effects of Adjustment Disorder

Understanding Adjustment Disorder

Learn about Adjustment Disorder Treatment

Adjustment disorder is a condition that develops after an individual has experienced one or more significant stressors. If you have symptoms of adjustment disorder, you might experience distress in many areas of your life, and possibly experience a level of upset that does not appropriately match the situation that triggered the disorder in the first place.

Adjustment disorder and its symptoms can vary from individual to individual. For some, symptoms of this condition do not start developing until roughly three months after the triggering event has occurred. In many instances, it takes upwards of six months for these symptoms to fade, unless continual stressors are perpetuating the condition.

Statistics

Statistics about Adjustment Disorder

According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), adjustment disorder can occur in people of all ages. This specific mental health condition is most commonly diagnosed in inpatient settings, with rates as high as 50%.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports the following statistics:

  • Adjustment disorder is three times as common as the prevalence of major depression, with rates of 13.7% in comparison to 5.1%
  • One-third of young individuals who die by suicide are diagnosed with adjustment disorder
  • The prevalence of adjustment disorder in elderly individuals is similar to that of depression, with a rate of 2.3%

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and Risk Factors for Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorders can develop in the face of several different adverse events. Some of the most common events that can lead to symptoms of adjustment disorder can include, however are not limited to, the following:

  • Becoming a parent
  • Leaving or reentering a parental home
  • Significant problems in school
  • Marital difficulties
  • Loss of a parent or other loved one
  • Business difficulties
  • Suffering from a chronic and/or painful illness
  • Failing to attain occupational goals
  • Experiencing a natural disaster
  • Retirement
  • Termination of a romantic relationship
  • Living in a neighborhood that has a high rate of crime or violence
  • Changes in school

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder

The event or events that might have caused the development of adjustment disorder can determine the signs and symptoms you might experience, and they can also depend on external forces, such as your age and the support you are receiving from others. However, some of the most commonly experienced signs and symptoms of adjustment disorder can include the following:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Aggressive outbursts
  • Failure to attend work or school
  • No longer adhering to other daily responsibilities
  • No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Drop in performance at work or school
  • Tearfulness
  • Onset of self-harming behaviors
  • Making attempts at suicide

Physical symptoms:

  • Muscle tension
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Persistent headaches
  • Chest pains
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Other bodily aches and pains

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Suffering from an inability to use sound judgment and reasoning
  • Experiencing difficulty concentrating
  • Experiencing memory disturbances
  • Struggling to make good decisions

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feelings of nervousness
  • Depressed feelings
  • Excessive feelings of worry, concern, or dread
  • Emotional instability
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Anxious feelings

Lasting Effects

Effects of Adjustment Disorder

The symptoms that you can experience as a result of adjustment disorder can continue if stressful events are persisting in your life. Some of these effects can include the following:

  • Suicidal behaviors
  • Decline in social interactions
  • Disturbed interpersonal relationships
  • Beginning to abuse drugs or alcohol
  • Onset of symptoms of other mental health disorders
  • Decreased performance at work or school
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Persistent, unpredictable mood swings

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Substance Abuse or Mental Health Issues

If you have adjustment disorder, you are at a greater risk for struggling with symptoms of other mental health conditions at the same time. This is known as having a co-occurring disorder. Some of the mental health conditions that you might be more prone to at this time can include the following:

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

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