Health Conditions

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Adjustment disorder


Adjustment disorder is an abnormal and excessive reaction to a life stress, such as starting school, getting divorced, or experiencing grief.


Adults often develop adjustment disorder due to marital or financial problems.

In adolescents, common stressors include:

  • Family conflict
  • School problems
  • Sexuality issues

Other stressors for people of any age include:

  • Death of a loved one
  • General life changes
  • Unexpected catastrophes

There is no way to predict which people who are affected by the same stress are likely to develop adjustment disorder. Financial conditions, social support, and career and recreational opportunities can influence how well a person reacts to stress. A person's susceptibility to stress may be influenced by factors such as:

  • Coping strategies
  • Intelligence
  • Flexibility
  • Genetic factors
  • Social skills


For a diagnosis of adjustment disorder, a person's symptoms must be severe enough to affect his or her work or social life. Some of the symptoms include:

  • Agitation
  • Conduct disturbances
  • Depression
  • Palpitations
  • Physical complaints
  • Trembling or twitching

Symptoms of adjustment disorder typically begin within 3 months of the stressor, and usually do not last longer than 6 months.


The primary goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms and help the person return to a similar level of functioning as before the stressful event occurred.

Most mental health professionals recommend treatments including:

  • Behavior therapy
  • Individual psychotherapy
  • Family therapy
  • Self-help groups

When medications are used, they are usually in addition to other forms of treatment.


Adjustment disorders usually get better quickly without any remaining symptoms.


There is no known way to prevent this disorder. Strong support from friends and family can help.