Causes & Effects of Adjustment Disorder

At San Jose Behavioral Health, we believe education is an important first step in the effort to manage adjustment disorder. Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of adjustment disorder can help you get the right type and level of care for yourself or a loved one.

Understanding Adjustment Disorder

Learn About Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorder is a very common type of mental illness that can occur within three months after a person experiences an identifiably stressful or uncomfortable experience. The symptoms of adjustment disorders are significant enough to create marked distress that is not culturally or personally normal. The symptoms may cause impairment in work, social life or family life.

Adjustment disorders may begin as soon as a stressful event occurs, or it may take a few months for an adjustment disorder to begin. The good news is that these symptoms can disappear or resolve within six months if the individual is not continually exposed to new stressors.

While an adjustment disorder is present, the individual may feel very uncomfortable, anxious, or depressed. The person may exhibit strange or unhealthy behaviors. He or she may behave in ways that are not helpful to his or her career or family life. Treatment can help relieve these issues, and many people find recovery from adjustment disorders with support and care.


Adjustment Disorder Statistics

Adjustment disorder is one of the most common mental health diagnoses. It is common among all age groups and accounts for as many as 20 percent of all outpatient mental health support visits. In inpatient (overnight) settings, adjustment disorder is the most common diagnosis, accounting for as much as 50 percent of all patients.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors of Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorder begins when a person experiences a very stressful event. The individual may react with behaviors or emotions that cause discomfort or difficulty in everyday life. Individuals who experience chronic or repeated trauma or stressful situations are most likely to be diagnosed with adjustment disorder at some point in life.

Risk Factors: A number of different experiences may lead to adjustment disorder. This disorder may even be caused by a number of stressors. While there is no limit on the types of situations that may cause adjustment disorder, some of the events that lead to adjustment disorder may include:

  • Diagnosis of a serious or chronic illness
  • Retirement or major life change
  • End of a romantic relationship
  • Marriage or relationship conflicts
  • Becoming a new parent
  • Problems with school or work
  • Businesses losses or setbacks
  • Community violence or crime
  • Natural disasters such as fire, flood, or storm
  • Drastic shifts in living or occupational goals

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment disorder manifests differently in each individual person. Some factors that can impact the way adjustment disorders manifest include the type of event that caused the disorder, the person’s personality, support network, and lifestyle. Some of the varied symptoms of adjustment disorder include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Aggression or uncharacteristic irritability
  • Drop in work or school performance
  • Missed attendance at work, school, or other important events
  • Crying or tearfulness
  • Suicidal thinking or suicidal attempts
  • Isolating self from friends or family
  • No longer participating in previously enjoyable activities
  • Neglect of daily responsibilities

Physical symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Body tension or inability to relax
  • Stomachaches, headaches, or other bodily pains
  • Chest pains or pounding heartbeat at times

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Problems retaining information or recalling memories
  • Difficulty concentrating or completing tasks
  • Inability to make good decisions
  • Lapses in sound judgment
  • Forgetfulness or losing items

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Feeling depressed or anxious
  • Unstable emotions or sudden mood changes
  • Nervousness or jumpiness
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Feeling anxious or restless
  • Excessive feelings of dread, worry, or concern

Lasting Effects

Effects of Adjustment Disorder

In many cases, the symptoms of adjustment disorder can be very uncomfortable and disruptive. Adjustment disorder may lead to unfortunate outcomes without proper attention and treatment, including:

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

Co-Occurring Disorders

Co-Occurring Disorders

Adjustment disorder may occur alongside other mental health concerns. The American Psychiatric Association lists some of the potential co-occurring disorders as:

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

After my wife lost her father, she just couldn't be her old self. After trying several types of treatment and therapy, we decided she needed more comprehensive help. We admitted her at San Jose and she said it was like a breath of fresh air. With the help of the staff, she was able to overcome her loss and has since returned home and is doing much better.

– Barry W.