Adjustment disorder (AjD) is diagnosed when a person starts showing an excessive, extreme reaction to a stressful life event such as the death of a loved one, a job loss, or divorce.
While each of these examples can cause considerable distress, having AjD means the person can’t function at an expected level in a job, learning environment, social setting, or other important area of functioning.
Adjustment disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It’s characterized by:
- emotional and behavioral disturbances such as feeling sad, anxious, overwhelmed, and social withdrawal,
- difficulties with activities of daily living such as washing, cleaning, and cooking
Adjustment disorder is a common condition that has a prevalence that ranges from 3 – 10% in regular healthcare settings. It is often undiagnosed by family doctors. Adjustment disorder can be diagnosed in both children and adults; however, children with AjD tend to show it through their behavior (acting out) rather than through their emotional state (a depressed mood). Adult women are diagnosed with adjustment disorder twice as often as adult men.
It is a significant contributor to problems at home, at work, and/or at school since this stress-related condition results in abnormal levels of stress experience because of unexpected or stressful events. Common triggers include major life changes or events like the death of a family member or close friend, the loss of a job, problems at work, moving house, or moving for school.
While these events can be stressful for most people, many find ways to adjust within a few months, but for those with an adjustment disorder, the transition may not be as short or as smooth. When untreated, AjD may cause reactions which result in prolonged depression or anxiety. Treatment is available, and AjD can often come to a fruitful conclusion in a short time frame, drastically reducing or eliminating the debilitating symptoms.