Adjustment Disorder

The need to adjust or adapt to new situations occurs very frequently in life and adjustment disorders can affect a great many people of all ages and genders. Psychotherapy, and more specifically CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is very effective in treating adjustment disorder.

Typical causes

Stressors and situations that may cause adjustment disorder symptoms:

End of a significant relationship
Business difficulties
Marriage problems
Unfulfilled sexual relationship
Seasonal business downturn
New illness (yours or a loved one’s)
Persistent illness
Natural disaster
Job loss
Career change
Leaving home
Getting married
Becoming a parent
Death of a loved one
Anything that, to you, represents a major change in lifestyle, comfort, security, relationship, career, health

Diagnostic criteria

A. The development of emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to an identifiable stressor(s) occurring within 3 months of the onset of the stressor(s).

B. These symptoms or behaviors are clinically significant, as evidenced by one or both of the following:
    1. Marked distress that is out of proportion to the severity or intensity of the stressor, taking into account the external context and the cultural factors that might influence symptom severity and presentation.
    2. Significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

C. The stress-related disturbance does not meet the criteria for another mental disorder and is not merely an exacerbation of a preexisting mental disorder.

D. The symptoms do not represent normal bereavement.

E. Once the stressor or its consequences have terminated, the symptoms do not persist for more than an additional 6 months.

Get help

To make an appointment with Dr. Z, call (678) 554-5632 or click the blue button to request an appointment using the online form. We can go over your current situation, identify the ways in which the lingering effects of recent events requiring adjustment are affecting your life and that of your loved ones, or how current conflicts are impairing important relationships. We will put some dimensions to the problem, and identify your current resources that may be applied toward meaningful and lasting change. If additional resources and skills are needed, we will treat your severe symptoms with CBT and help you feel calmer and increase your ability to choose the most appropriate response to each situation. Treating adjustment disorders with CBT is feasible, it’s proven to be effective, and has helped many people who had a variety of different symptoms and challenges.

Schedule an appointment

Clinical definition

What is Adjustment Disorder?
The presence of emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to an identifiable stressor is the essential feature of adjustment disorders (Criterion A). The stressor may be a single event (e.g., a termination of a romantic relationship), or there may be multiple stressors (e.g., marked business difficulties and marital problems). Stressors may be recurrent (e.g., associated with seasonal business crises, unfulfilling sexual relationships) or continuous (e.g., a persistent painful illness with increasing disability, living in a crime-ridden neighborhood).  Stressors may affect a single individual, an entire family, or a larger group or community (e.g., a natural disaster). Some stressors may accompany specific developmental events (e.g., going to school, leaving a parental home, reentering a parental home, getting married, becoming a parent, failing to attain occupational goals, retirement).  Adjustment disorders may be diagnosed following the death of a loved one when the intensity, quality, or persistence of grief reactions exceeds what normally might be expected, when cultural, religious, or age-appropriate norms are taken into account. A more specific set of bereavement-related symptoms has been designated persistent complex bereavement disorder.  Adjustment disorders are associated with an increased risk of suicide attempts and completed suicide.–American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association.