Adjustment disorder is a diagnosis that is commonly used, particularly in primary care and general medical settings. However, there has been relatively little research done on this disorder. In this article, the author reviews the information that is available on the epidemiology, clinical features, validity, measurement, and treatment of adjustment disorder. The author also considers similarities and differences in how adjustment disorder is defined in the DSM and ICD systems. The clinical features of the disorder that distinguish it from disorders such as major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and acute stress disorder are described. The author highlights a number of the common controversies concerning adjustment disorder, especially criticisms that the diagnostic criteria are often poorly applied and that the disorder itself involves the medicalizing of problems of living.
Adjustment disorder is a group of symptoms, such as stress, feeling sad or hopeless, and physical symptoms that can occur after you go through a stressful life event. The symptoms occur because you are having a hard time coping. Your reaction is stronger than expected for the type of event that occurred. Many different events may trigger symptoms of an adjustment disorder.
Adjustment disorders are stress-related conditions. You experience more stress than would normally be expected in response to a stressful or unexpected event, and the stress causes significant problems in your relationships, at work or at school. Work problems, going away to school, an illness, death of a close family member or any number of life changes can cause stress. Most of the time, people adjust to such changes within a few months.
The reaction is considered an unhealthy or excessive response to the event or change within three months of it happening. While adults can experience adjustment disorders, it is predominantly diagnosed in children and adolescents. Adjustment disorders are a reaction to an event. There is not a single direct cause between the stressful event and the reaction.