Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment Disorder / Coping Disorder

Adjustment disorder is an emotional and behavioral reaction to a life stress, which causes a significant distress that is stronger or greater than what would be expected for the type of event that occurred. In essence, it refers to difficulty in adjusting to life change, with serious consequences.

Adjustment disorders affect people of all ages and gender. The cause is complex and involves genetics,  life experiences, temperament and changes in the chemicals in the brain. Common stressful life events that may result in adjustment disorder 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

However almost any type of stressful event or change, both positive and negative, can result in adjustment disorder if coping skills are poor, or the social support system is weak or inadequate. Stress in early childhood, overprotective or abusive parenting, family disruptions, and frequent moves lead to poor coping skills and increases the risk of adjustment disorder. 

Most adults with adjustment disorder get better within six months and don’t have long-term complications. However, those who also have another co-morbid mental health disorder such as depression, or a substance abuse problem are more likely to have long-term mental health problems. Teenagers with adjustment disorder — marked by behavioral problems — are at significantly increased risk of long-term problems such as Schizophrenia, Bipolar Affective disorder, or Antisocial personality disorder

Adjustment disorder is treatable.  There are two main types of treatment for adjustment disorder — psychotherapy and medications.



  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Avoiding family or friends
  • Lack of enjoyment
  • Agitation
  • Nervousness
  • Fighting
  • Anxiety
  • Worry
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Reckless driving
  • Desperation
  • Ignoring responsibilities
  • Performing poorly in school or at work
  • Skipping school
  • Vandalizing property
  • Headache
  • Aches and pains
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Palpitations
  • Trembling or twitching

At times the symptoms may be severe enough to lead to depression.



The main treatment for adjustment disorders is psychotherapy,or counseling. Therapy can provide understanding of why the stressful event was distressful, render emotional support and help restoration of normal routine with healthy coping skills.


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