Causes and Effects of Adjustment Disorder

Youth Care Treatment Center and school has helped teens with adjustment disorder all over the United States for 30 years. Our unique approach is based off of solid morals and beliefs to help adolescents be successful in turning their lives around.

Understanding Adjustment Disorder

Learn about adjustment disorder

Adjustment disorder is a mental health condition that is characterized by the development of both behavioral and emotional disturbances as a result of experiencing one or more stressors. The symptoms that develop with this condition are significant and can include impairment at work, within social circles, and in other areas of everyday functioning. In addition, the symptoms that develop can show a clear level of upset in the individual that is disproportionate to the intensity of the stressor that triggered the reaction. There are many different occurrences that can lead to the development of adjustment disorder, and the pain that is experienced as a result will vary from individual to individual. In some cases, the symptoms will develop shortly after the stressor has occurred, however in other instances, these symptoms might not show up until as long as three months after the stressor. Thankfully, the symptoms of adjustment disorder often go away within six months, except in those circumstances where individuals are continually exposed to stressors. Obtaining treatment to address the concerns that develop is important to help prevent the duration of symptoms and to offer individuals the relief required.


Adjustment disorder statistics

Adjustment disorder is believed to be highly common in people of all ages. The American Psychiatric Association reports that within inpatient hospital settings, it is commonly the most frequently diagnosed disorder, reaching up to 50%.

Causes and Risk Factors

Causes and risk factors for adjustment disorder

The development of adjustment disorder happens when an individual goes through an environmental stressor, or a number of stressors, that cause him or her to respond with upsetting emotional or behavioral symptoms. Those who are exposed to disadvantaged life circumstances or who are continually exposed to chronically stressful situations are at a greater risk for experiencing the onset of this disorder.

Risk Factors:

Adjustment disorder can develop because of many different kinds of circumstances and might be the product of one specific stressor or continued stressors. Some of the many events known to bring on the onset of symptoms of adjustment disorder can include, however are not limited to, the following:

  • Getting married
  • Becoming a parent
  • Failing to attain occupational goals
  • Termination of a romantic relationship
  • Marital difficulties
  • Loss of a parent or other loved one
  • Significant problems in school
  • Changes in school
  • Retirement
  • Experiencing a natural disaster
  • Suffering from a chronic and/or painful illness
  • Leaving or reentering a parental home
  • Living in a neighborhood that has a high rate of crime or violence
  • Business difficulties

Signs and Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of adjustment disorder

The types of symptoms that are shown when an individual is grappling with adjustment disorder will vary from person to person, depending on a number of different factors. These factors can include the individual’s age, the support network that he or she has available to him or her, and the specific circumstances surrounding the event that caused the onset of the disorder. Some of these symptoms are listed below:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Aggressive outbursts
  • Tearfulness
  • No longer adhering to other daily responsibilities
  • No longer participating in activities that were once enjoyed
  • Isolating oneself from friends and family members
  • Onset of self-harming behaviors
  • Failure to attend work or school
  • Drop in performance at work or school
  • Making attempts at suicide

Physical symptoms:

  • Other bodily aches and pains
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Muscle tension
  • Persistent headaches
  • Chest pains

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Struggling to make good decisions
  • Experiencing memory disturbances
  • Experiencing difficulty concentrating
  • Suffering from an inability to use sound judgment and reasoning

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Emotional instability
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Depressed feelings
  • Anxious feelings
  • Feelings of nervousness
  • Excessive feelings of worry, concern, or dread


Effects of adjustment disorder

Because of the nature of adjustment disorder, the symptoms that impact those who struggle with this mental illness often do not last for longer than six months following the triggering event. However, in circumstances where individuals are exposed to continued stressors, the symptoms might persist for longer periods of time. Examples of various effects that can come from the presence of adjustment disorder when treatment it not obtain include, however are not limited to, the following:

  • Beginning to abuse drugs or alcohol
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Suicidal behaviors
  • Decreased performance at work or school
  • Decline in social interactions
  • Disturbed interpersonal relationships
  • Onset of symptoms of other mental health disorders
  • Persistent, unpredictable mood swings

Co-Occurring Disorders

Adjustment disorder and co-occurring disorders

Sadly, adjustment disorder is condition that can co-occur alongside other mental health problems. Some of these co-occurring disorders include the following:

  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobia
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
Marks of Quality Care
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)
  • Cognia
  • National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP)
  • The Joint Commission (JCAHO) Gold Seal of Approval

Now I can sleep at night. My son is safe and finally moving forward after three other residential facilities and weekly therapies of all kinds - for years - in three different countries.

– Linda C.