Adjustment Disorder Causes, Symptoms & Signs

Erlanger Behavioral Health Hospital offers high-quality services and support for adolescents, adults, and senior adults who are struggling with adjustment disorder. Located in Chattanooga, TN, Erlanger is a leading provider of adjustment disorder treatment.

Understanding Adjustment Disorder

Learn about adjustment disorder

As human beings, we experience a wide variety of changes throughout our lives, some large and some small. But whether it’s moving out of our parents’ house, starting a new job, getting married, or having a baby, some of us find it easier than others to adjust to significant life changes.

Change can naturally provoke temporary feelings of fear, worry, or anxiety. However, when an individual finds it nearly impossible to adapt to new circumstances, they may be suffering from adjustment disorder. Adjustment disorder occurs when people who are experiencing life changes feel a sense of panic or dread, rather than joy or fulfillment. Adjustment disorder can also cause negative effects in your daily life, such as difficulty concentrating at school or work, a loss of interest in your passions, and strained relationships with those who are closest to you.

However, there is treatment available for adjustment disorder. For the individual, treatment could include time at an inpatient clinic, outpatient sessions, medication, support groups, or other forms of management. With professional treatment, adjustment disorder does not need to remain an everyday struggle. You can once again live a healthier and more satisfying life.


Statistics about adjustment disorder

The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), includes the following statistics about adjustment disorder:

  • About 50% of people who receive psychiatric treatment in hospitals demonstrate symptoms that are consistent with a diagnosis of adjustment disorder.
  • Among individuals who seek mental health care on an outpatient basis, between 5% and 20% have a primary diagnosis of adjustment disorder.

Causes & Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for adjustment disorder

Although it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of adjustment disorder, there are certain circumstances and situations that are more likely to trigger its symptoms, including:

  • A change at school or work
  • Getting married
  • Becoming a parent
  • Failing to attain goals at work
  • Moving to a new community
  • Living in a dangerous community
  • Retiring from a job
  • The ending of a romantic relationship
  • Marital difficulties
  • Losing a loved one
  • Living through any type of trauma

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of adjustment disorder

Everyone deals with life changes in their own way. However, the signs and symptoms of adjustment disorder go beyond the everyday small anxieties of life that are linked to change.

That being stated, adjustment disorder can be difficult to recognize, and the only way to get an accurate diagnosis is to complete an assessment with a qualified professional. If you have any questions or doubts, make an appointment with a therapist or other healthcare provider to get the answers you deserve.

The signs and symptoms of adjustment disorder can include:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Emotional outbursts
  • A decline in work productivity or performance
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Failing to meet daily responsibilities (this could include not attending work)
  • Not participating in hobbies or interests that one once enjoyed
  • Suicide attempts

Physical symptoms:

  • Muscle tension
  • Chest pains
  • Consistent headaches or migraines
  • Other body aches and pains
  • Sharp changes in eating habits
  • Restlessness

Mental symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Frequent changes in emotion
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Finding it difficult to make smart decisions
  • Constant worry
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Being filled with dread


Effects of adjustment disorder

Like with most mental illnesses, the effects of adjustment disorder can impact both your mind and your body. Without proper treatment, the ongoing effects of this disorder can be devastating. The most common effects of untreated adjustment disorder include:

  • Self-harm
  • Job loss
  • Withdrawing from society
  • Difficulties in personal relationships
  • Substance abuse
  • Taking on the symptoms of other mental health disorders
  • Persistent and unpredictable mood swings
  • Decreased performance at work/school
  • Suicidal thoughts and tendencies

If you are suffering from adjustment disorder, please know that there is treatment available. No matter how this disorder has impacted you thus far, it’s never too late to seek help. With encouragement and assistance from qualified therapists and counselors at a reputable treatment center, you can take the first steps toward a more positive future.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who have adjustment disorder

If you struggle with adjustment disorder, you might also have an increased risk for developing certain co-occurring mental health disorders. These disorders can include:

  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depressive disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobias
Marks of Quality Care
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