Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Adjustment disorders are diagnosed based on signs and symptoms and a thorough psychological evaluation. To be diagnosed with adjustment disorder, you must meet criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This manual, published by the American Psychiatric Association, is used by mental health professionals to diagnose mental conditions and by insurance companies to reimburse for treatment.

For an adjustment disorder to be diagnosed, several criteria must be met, including:

  • Having emotional or behavioral symptoms within three months of a specific stressor occurring in your life
  • Experiencing more stress than would normally be expected in response to the stressor, or having stress that causes significant problems in your relationships, at work or at school — or having both of these criteria
  • An improvement of symptoms within six months after the stressful event ends
  • The symptoms are not the result of another diagnosis

Types of adjustment disorders

Your doctor may ask detailed questions about how you feel and how you spend your time. This will help pinpoint which type of adjustment disorder you have. There are six main types. Although they're all related, each type has certain signs and symptoms:

  • Adjustment disorder with depressed mood. Symptoms mainly include feeling sad, tearful and hopeless, and experiencing a lack of pleasure in the things you used to enjoy.
  • Adjustment disorder with anxiety. Symptoms mainly include nervousness, worry, difficulty concentrating or remembering things, and feeling overwhelmed. Children who have adjustment disorder with anxiety may strongly fear being separated from their parents and loved ones.
  • Adjustment disorder with mixed anxiety and depressed mood. Symptoms include a mix of depression and anxiety.
  • Adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct. Symptoms mainly involve behavioral problems, such as fighting or reckless driving. Youths may skip school or vandalize property.
  • Adjustment disorder with mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct. Symptoms include a mix of depression and anxiety as well as behavioral problems.
  • Adjustment disorder unspecified. Symptoms don't fit the other types of adjustment disorders, but often include physical problems, problems with family or friends, or work or school problems.
Apr. 02, 2014

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