Adjustment Disorder

Definition

Adjustment disorder is an excessive, lengthy reaction to a stressful event or situation. It could be one stressor or a combination of stressors affecting one person or a group of people. This reaction seriously damages social and occupational functioning.There are several subtypes of the disorder, including adjustment disorder with:
  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety
  • Mixed anxiety and depressed mood
  • Disturbance of conduct
  • Mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct

Causes

Adjustment disorders develop in reaction to stressful life events or major life changes. Some common stressors are:
  • Relationship problems
  • Financial difficulties
  • Family conflict
  • School issues
  • Work changes
  • Major life changes
  • Health problems
  • Divorce
  • Death of loved ones
  • Moving
  • Combat
  • Sexuality issues
In some cases, ongoing problems, such as living in an unsafe, crime-ridden neighborhood, may cause the development of an adjustment disorder over a longer period of time.

Risk Factors

Women may be at a higher risk for adjustment disorder than men. However, risk for boys and girls is similar. Other factors that may increase your risk for adjustment disorder may include:
  • Genetics
  • Lack of emotional flexibility
  • Intelligence
  • Social skills
  • Coping strategies
People who face certain stressors like medical problems or living in challenging environments may be at greater risk.The stressor itself may also interfere with an individual’s support network.Certain early-childhood family history factors seem to increase the chance that a person may suffer from an adjustment disorder in the future. These include:
  • Frequent moves as a child
  • Abusive family of origin
  • Overprotective family of origin
  • Coming from a disadvantaged background
  • Prior exposure to extreme trauma, such as war, without having previously developed either an adjustment disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Individuals who are at higher risk for adjustment disorders often have other conditions, such as a history of anxiety , depression , bipolar disorder , or eating disorders .

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