Although the cause of adjustment disorders is unknown, some things make you more likely to have an adjustment disorder. Among children and teenagers, both boys and girls have about the same chance of having adjustment disorders. Among adults, women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with adjustment disorders.

Stressful events

One or more stressful life events may put you at risk of developing an adjustment disorder. It may involve almost any type of stressful event in your life. Both positive and negative events can cause extreme stress. Some common examples include:

  • Being diagnosed with a serious illness
  • Problems in school
  • Divorce or relationship breakup
  • Job loss
  • Having a baby
  • Financial problems
  • Physical assault
  • Surviving a disaster
  • Retirement
  • Death of a loved one
  • Going away to school

In some cases, people who face an ongoing stressful situation — such as living in a crime-ridden neighborhood — can reach a breaking point and develop an adjustment disorder.

Your life experiences

If you generally don't cope well with change or you don't have a strong support system, you may be more likely to have an extreme reaction to a stressful event.

Your risk of an adjustment disorder may be higher if you experienced stress in early childhood. Overprotective or abusive parenting, family disruptions, and frequent moves early in life may make you feel like you're unable to control events in your life. When difficulties then arise, you may have trouble coping.

Other risk factors may include:

  • Other mental health problems
  • Exposure to wars or violence
  • Difficult life circumstances
April 02, 2014