What are the symptoms of an adjustment disorder?

Sudeepta Varma, MD
Adjustment disorder-implies there is a clearly identifiable stressor that has caused some change in a person’s behavior or emotions as a result of the stress associated with it. Major life changes are often times of stress for most people- moving to a new city, starting a new job, losing a job and even positive changes including getting married etc. In an adjustment disorder- we may see some symptoms such as depressed mood, tearfulness, or anxiety- worry or jitteriness (in kids, fear of separation from parents or major behavioral problems- acting out in school, fighting, truancy, vandalism). The distress seen in an adjustment disorder is greater than what might ordinarily be expected, usually occurs within 3 months of the stressor and often goes away when the stressor/its consequences remit. For example, a child has to be apart from a parent that travels abroad, on only one occasion, for a few month. The symptoms typically resolve when the parent returns. However, if the stressor (parent traveling) continues, so can the symptoms. Usually the symptoms of adjustment disorder are not of great enough severity to meet criteria for a major depressive episode or anxiety disorder nor are as disruptive to social/school/occupational functioning as other depressive/anxiety disorders typically are.

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