Adjustment Disorders

Adjustment disorders cause significant emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to an identifiable distressing eventthat led to the experience of significant psychological or social stress. Individuals with an adjustment disorder do not meet diagnostic criteria for significant behavioral health disorders.

Adjustment disorders are maladaptive, or unhealthy, responses to coping with stressful or psychologically distressing life events, such as the end of a romantic relationship or being fired from a job.

Symptoms of adjustment disorders typically include a decrease in performance at work or school and withdrawal from social relationships. These disorders may possibly lead to suicidal thinking or suicidal behavior and can complicate the course of physical disease processes when, for instance, a sufferer loses interest in taking medication as prescribed or adhering to specialized diets or exercise regimens.

Adjustment disorders can occur at any stage of life. They are often diagnosed in young children when a developmental stage or external change in the life of children has caused difficulty for them that may resolve quickly. In early adolescence, individuals with adjustment disorders tend to be angry, aggressive, and defiant. Temper outbursts are common and may not appear to match the event that precipitated them. Some adolescents with adjustment disorders may become passive and withdrawn. Older teens experience intense anxiety, panic attacks, or depression during the course of an adjustment disorder. Frequent hormonal changes may make mood states more extreme in the teen years and add to the intensity of adjustment disorders.

Some psychological theorists and researchers consider adjustment disorders in adolescents an actual stage. Adolescents may develop adjustment disorders as part of a defense mechanism to help them separate from their dependence on their parents.

See also Abnormal psychology ; American Psychiatric Association ; Clinical psychology ; Mood ; Psychotherapy .



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American Psychiatric Association, 1000 Wilson Blvd., Ste. 1825, Arlington, VA, 22209, (703) 907-7300, (888) 3577924),, .