Signs & Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder

Education is an essential tool in the effort to heal from adjustment disorders. The more you understand about the signs, symptoms, and effects of adjustment disorders, the better prepared you will be to get help for yourself or a loved one.

Understanding Adjustment Disorder

Learn about adjustment disorder

Adjustment disorders are types of mental health disorders that involve excessive unhealthy reactions to certain events or experiences. Events that precede the onset of adjustment disorders are known as stressors. They can vary widely, with examples including the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, the onset or worsening of an illness, becoming a parent, and retiring. 

These and other occurrences can clearly be stressful, and it is not abnormal to experience some difficulties adapting. However, if you have an adjustment disorder, you will react in ways that are extreme and disproportionate to the triggering event. The intensity of symptoms will impair your ability to meet your personal, academic, or professional responsibilities.  

The good news is that adjustment disorders are treatable conditions. When you enter an effective program, you can learn to manage your symptoms. With the right type and level of care, you can resume your pursuit of a healthy, productive, and satisfying life. 


Adjustment disorder statistics 

The American Psychiatric Association has reported the following statistics about adjustment disorders: 

  • Adjustment disorders are among the most common diagnoses in people who receive hospital psychiatric care, affecting about 50% of this population. 
  • Between 5% and 20% of people who seek outpatient mental health services have a primary diagnosis of an adjustment disorder. 

Causes & Risks

Causes and risk factors for adjustment disorder

Your risk of developing an adjustment disorder can be increased or decreased by various factors, such as the following: 

  • History of disadvantaged life circumstances 
  • Prior struggles with mental illness 
  • Being divorced or widowed 
  • Exposure to high rates of stress 
  • Being attacked or assaulted 
  • Experiencing personal adversity, such as losing a job or failing out of school 
  • Dealing with a chronic medical condition 
  • Persistent stress, such as living in a high-crime area  


Signs and symptoms of adjustment disorder

A person who has developed an adjustment disorder may demonstrate symptoms such as the ones listed below. It’s important to understand that, in the case of an adjustment disorder, these symptoms are related to one or more specific identifiable events. 

Behavioral symptoms: 

  • Becoming tearful or crying for no obvious reason 
  • Acting nervous, jumpy, or jittery 
  • Being easily disturbed or distracted 
  • Expressing unreasonable fear or worry 
  • Failing to meet important responsibilities, such as going to school or work, or paying bills 
  • Neglecting personal hygiene and other basic self-care 
  • Withdrawing from family and friends 

Physical symptoms: 

  • Insomnia 
  • Lack of appetite 

Mental symptoms: 

  • Depressed mood 
  • Persistent sense of hopelessness 
  • Difficulty focusing or concentrating 
  • Suicidal thoughts 


Effects of adjustment disorder

If you don’t get proper care for an adjustment disorder, you put yourself at increased risk for a variety of negative outcomes, such as the following: 

  • Family discord 
  • Strained or ruined friendships or other relationships 
  • Poor performance at work or in school 
  • Difficulty finding and keeping a job 
  • Financial problems 
  • Inability to maintain an independent lifestyle 
  • Decreased compliance with treatment for medical conditions 
  • Social withdrawal and isolation 
  • Onset or worsening of other mental health disorders 
  • Pervasive sense of helplessness and hopelessness 

However, when you enter an effective comprehensive treatment program, you can avoid problems like the ones listed above. If you’ve already experienced harm as a result of an adjustment disorder, you can begin to heal from past damage while you’re in treatment. 

Co-Occurring Disorders

Adjustment disorder and co-occurring disorders

According to the American Psychiatric Association, adjustment disorders can accompany most forms of mental illness and all types of medical concerns. If you struggle with an adjustment disorder, you may also deal with challenges such as the following: 

  • Depression 
  • Bipolar disorder 
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)