An Adjustment Disorder is the occurrence of extremely intense emotions and/or changes in how a person behaves in response to an identifiable stressor (or stresses) which occurs within three months of that stressful event.
We all experience events in life that can create stress, anxiety or low mood and that can be difficult to endure. Some examples might include losing a job, relationship breakdowns or failing an exam. Although unhappy times are difficult to endure we can usually get through these events with the support of loved ones and the level of distress we feel is in line with how serious the stressful event was. However, people who experience an Adjustment Disorder report a level of emotional distress that is stronger than would be typically expected and that also significantly impacts on their ability to function on a day to day basis (e.g., they may be unable to maintain employment).
With good support and determination people often feel relief from their anxiety or low mood due to the stressful event within a reasonable space of time (e.g., 2-3 months). However, people with an Adjustment Disorder experience severe emotional distress for a period of time longer than would ordinarily be expected. The nature of emotional distress a person experiences if they are having difficulties adjusting can be different. It may include anxiety (possibly with panic attacks), depression or a mix of anxiety and depression combined.
An Adjustment Disorder is diagnosed only if it’s clear that legal or illegal drug use is not causing the symptoms of anxiety (or other symptoms of low/depressed mood).
Disclaimer: The information covered on this website is for educational purposes only. Other anxiety disorders including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can share symptoms in common with an Adjustment Disorder, so it’s important to speak with your GP or a psychologist about your concerns to clarify what you’re experiencing and to receive appropriate treatment. A diagnosis of any psychiatric or medical condition must only be made by a medical or mental health specialist. Diagnosing a psychiatric concern is a complex process that involves formal training, do not ‘diagnose’ yourself.
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