Diagnosis

Diagnosis of adjustment disorders is based on identification of major life stressors, your symptoms and how they impact your ability to function. Your doctor will ask about your medical, mental health and social history. He or she may use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

For diagnosis of adjustment disorders, the DSM-5 lists these criteria:

  • 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 a stressful life event and/or having stress that causes significant problems in your relationships, at work or at school
  • Symptoms are not the result of another mental health disorder or part of normal grieving

Types of adjustment disorders

The DSM-5 lists six different types of adjustment disorders. Although they're all related, each type has unique signs and symptoms. Adjustment disorders can be:

  • With depressed mood. Symptoms mainly include feeling sad, tearful and hopeless and experiencing a lack of pleasure in the things you used to enjoy.
  • With anxiety. Symptoms mainly include nervousness, worry, difficulty concentrating or remembering things, and feeling overwhelmed. Children who have an adjustment disorder with anxiety may strongly fear being separated from their parents and loved ones.
  • With mixed anxiety and depressed mood. Symptoms include a combination of depression and anxiety.
  • With disturbance of conduct. Symptoms mainly involve behavioral problems, such as fighting or reckless driving. Youths may skip school or vandalize property.
  • With mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct. Symptoms include a mix of depression and anxiety as well as behavioral problems.
  • 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.

Length of symptoms

How long you have signs and symptoms of an adjustment disorder also can vary. Adjustment disorders can be:

  • Acute. Signs and symptoms last six months or less. They should ease once the stressor is removed.
  • Persistent (chronic). Signs and symptoms last more than six months. They continue to bother you and disrupt your life.
March 10, 2017
References
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  3. Casey P. Adjustment disorder: New developments. Current Psychiatry Report. 2014;16:451.
  4. The road to resilience. American Psychological Association. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx. Accessed Oct. 31, 2016.
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