Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment Disorder: What is an adjustment disorder? Definition, signs, symptoms adjustment disorder.

An adjustment disorder is characterized by the development of emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to an identifiable stressor occurring within 3 months of the onset of the stressor. (A stressor is anything that causes a great deal of stress in a person's life.)

Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder:

Depressed mood, anxious, regularly acting out of the ordinary. May be experiencing sleep and sexual difficulties.

The symptoms would be significant if:

  • the noted distress is in excess of what would normally be expected from exposure to the stressor; or

  • there's significant impairment in social or job functioning; and

  • the stress-related disturbance is not the result of another clinical disorder or a result of mental retardation or personality disorder and the person is not experiencing bereavement.

Adjustment disorders are often diagnosed when it's not clear the person meets the criteria for a more severe disorder, or the actual diagnosis is uncertain. This diagnosis often gives the therapist time to further evaluate the client during additional therapy sessions.

Adjustment disorders are further categorized by the specific symptoms experienced:

For comprehensive information on anxiety disorders and depression, visit the Anxiety Disorders Community and the Depression Community.

Source: American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

APA Reference
Writer, H. (2009, January 2). Adjustment Disorder, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, October 19 from

Last Updated: June 29, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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