Adjustment Disorder Causes & Effects

Everyone experiences grief, worry, or fear in the aftermath of certain situations. But people who have adjustment disorder feel distress related to those situations that can be debilitating.

Adjustment disorder is a condition that can develop after a person has experienced a stressor in their life, such as the death of a loved one, marriage or divorce, a chronic illness, a failing business, or graduation.

Mayo Clinic notes that a person who is struggling with adjustment disorder feels the stress associated with a specific situation so intensely that their emotional reactions and behaviors are out of proportion to the severity of the situation.

In most cases, a person who has adjustment disorder struggles to control these reactions, which can interfere with other areas of their life, such as their relationships, job performance, or schoolwork.

Common Adjustment Disorder Signs

Experiencing a stressful situation can be hard on anyone, and most people have moments of frustration and sadness. But when a person starts to behave a certain way, it could be a warning sign that their stress has developed into adjustment disorder.

These are some common adjustment disorder warning signs:

  • Cries for no apparent reason
  • Seems excessively worried
  • Constantly jittery or anxious
  • Has trouble concentrating
  • Fears being apart from loved ones
  • Displays reckless behaviors
  • Lashes out at others
  • Has trouble sleeping
  • Eats more or less than usual
  • Depressed mood

Not everyone who has adjustment disorder will exhibit all the adjustment disorder warning signs. Their genetic makeup, varied life experiences, and other factors will influence how adjustment disorder affects them.

Adjustment Disorder Symptoms

When a person starts to experience adjustment disorder symptoms, they have moved beyond the warning signs and likely need professional help to improve their health.

It’s essential to recognize that this is not a complete list of adjustment disorder symptoms a person may experience. Every person is also a unique individual, so adjustment disorder symptoms can vary from person to person.

Here are examples of adjustment disorder symptoms:

  • Neglects personal hygiene
  • Stops completing daily tasks
  • Withdraws from friends and family
  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Suicide attempts

People who are suffering from adjustment disorder are at a higher risk for attempting or completing suicide. If someone you know is at risk for suicide, call 911 or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

Adjustment Disorder Causes & Risk Factors

Experts have not identified a specific cause for why a person might struggle with adjustment disorder, but there are certain factors that can increase your risk for developing this condition.

Some common adjustment disorder causes and risk factors include:

  • A stressful life event, whether positive or negative
  • Other challenging life circumstances
  • Significant childhood stress
  • Other mental health concerns

Everyone is different, so your likelihood for developing adjustment disorder will be impacted by the unique influences that have shaped who you are today.

Adjustment Disorder Statistics

  • Johns Hopkins Medicine reports that as many as 20% of people who seek outpatient mental health services suffer from adjustment disorder.
  • More than 50% of people who seek mental healthcare services are struggling with adjustment disorder.
  • Adjustment disorder equally affects all genders.

Adjustment Disorder Effects

The effects of adjustment disorder can be devastating to a person’s ability to function in their daily life. Depending on how old someone is, whether they’ve sought help before, and a variety of other factors, adjustment disorder can affect a person in various ways.

Without professional care, the worsening effects of adjustment disorder can also be fatal.

Examples of adjustment disorder effects include:

  • Damaged relationships with family and friends
  • Trouble with schoolwork or academic failure
  • Diminished job performance or job loss
  • Onset of other mental health conditions
  • Suicidal thoughts or death by suicide

Co-Occurring Disorders

Adjustment disorder might occur at the same time as other mental health concerns. According to the American Psychiatric Association, some of the possible co-occurring disorders one might experience can include:

  • Depressive disorders
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Panic disorder

What Happens If My Adjustment Disorder Symptoms Return?

Reaching out for professional support for the adjustment disorder symptoms you’ve been struggling with takes courage, but it’s a decision that can change your life for the better.

When you seek evidence-based care for adjustment disorder, you can gain the necessary coping skills to set you on the path to lasting wellness. But even as your overall well-being continues to improve, you may discover that your adjustment disorder symptoms return when certain stressors or situations arise.

At Life Healing Center, you will build a foundation for lasting health by learning to manage your adjustment disorder symptoms. Our expert team prepares you with the resources you need to handle any future challenges.

Common Underlying or Co-Occurring Conditions

Many people who suffer from adjustment disorder also have another type of mental health or addiction concern. The effects of living with overlapping conditions can make it even more difficult for a person to function.

When you choose Life Healing Center, we ensure that you receive holistic support by caring for the symptoms of any co-occurring disorders or underlying conditions.

If you would like to learn more about the conditions that can co-occur with adjustment disorder, we recommend visiting Addiction Hope.

This content was written on behalf of and reviewed by the clinical staff at Life Healing Center.

Life Healing Center Home

After going through a traumatic event, I had a hard time adjusting back to my "normal" life. Only Life Healing Center was able to help me cope with my adjustment disorder. Now, each day is something to look forward to!

– Debra J.
Marks of Quality Care
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
  • LegitScript
  • National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP)
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)