Adjustment Disorder Signs, Symptoms, and Effects

Understanding the signs, symptoms, and effects of adjustment disorders is an important step toward getting help for yourself or your loved one. Haverhill Pavilion Behavioral Health Hospital in Haverhill, Massachusetts, is a source of accurate information, reliable guidance, and comprehensive solutions for adults and older adults who have been struggling with adjustment disorders.

Understanding Adjustment Disorders

Learn about adjustment disorders

Adjustment disorders are psychological conditions that are characterized by unhealthy emotional or behavioral responses to specific experiences or events. The emotional or behavioral responses that are symptomatic of adjustment disorders will be out of proportion to the stressor that triggered them, and they will impair a person’s ability to function in one or more important areas of life.

Examples of stressors that can trigger the onset of an adjustment disorder include the following:

  • Job loss
  • Onset or worsening of an illness
  • End of a relationship
  • Marital difficulties
  • Business problems
  • Changing jobs or locations
  • Becoming a parent
  • Retiring

It is normal and even healthy to experience worries, fears, or even grief during or after experiences such as the ones listed above. However, the distress experienced by a person who has an adjustment disorder will be excessive, and resultant behavioral changes will have a detrimental impact on their life.

One of the many unfortunate effects of adjustment disorder is an increased likelihood of suicidal thoughts or actions. If you or someone you know is at risk for suicide, call 911 or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

When you get proper care for an adjustment disorder, you can regain control of your thoughts and actions. With effective professional assistance, you can overcome the pain of adjustment disorders and experience improved wellness.

Signs & Symptoms

Common signs and symptoms of adjustment disorders

Adjustment disorders can cause a person to experience a variety of behavioral, physical, and mental symptoms. The signs and symptoms of adjustment disorders can vary from person to person based upon several personal factors.

The following are among the more common signs and symptoms of adjustment disorders:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Episodes of crying for no obvious reason
  • Multiple unexplained absences from school or work
  • Failing to pay bills or meet other personal responsibilities
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Ending your involvement in activities that were once of great importance
  • Neglecting basic self-care
  • Becoming easily distracted or disturbed
  • Frequent expressions of unreasonable fears or worries

Physical symptoms:

  • Apparent lack of attention to grooming or personal hygiene
  • Lack of appetiteand resultant weight loss
  • Insomnia
  • Jumpiness or jitteriness

Mental symptoms:

  • Problems with concentration or focus
  • Anxiety and nervousness
  • Pervasive sadness
  • Overwhelming sense of hopelessness
  • Thoughts of suicide

Short-Term Effects

Possible short-term effects of adjustment disorders

The signs and symptoms of adjustment disorders can increase your risk for several short- and long-term effects. The following are examples of the possible short-term effects of adjustment disorders:

  • Discord within your family
  • Difficulties in the context of your relationships with friends, colleagues, and peers
  • Failing to perform to your potential in school or at work
  • Not complying with treatment guidance for medical conditions
  • Social withdrawal
  • Onset of co-occurring conditions
  • Substance abuse
  • Diminished self-confidence
  • Suicidal thoughts

The short-term effects that are listed in this section are among the negative outcomes that most commonly occur earlier in a person’s struggles with adjustment disorders.

Describing these outcomes as short-term effects of adjustment disorders is not meant to minimize their potential to cause considerable harm. It merely indicates that they most commonly occur before the long-term effects that are listed in the next section.

Anyone who experiences any short-term effects of an adjustment disorder should seek assistance from a qualified clinical professional.

Long-Term Effects

Potential long-term effects of adjustment disorders

Continuing to struggle with an adjustment disorder can increase your risk for a variety of long-term effects. As with the short-term effects in the previous section, the long-term effects of adjustment disorders can introduce significant distress into your life.

The following are among the many potential long-term effects of adjustment disorders:

  • Ruined relationships with family and friends
  • Loss of personal support network
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Academic failure
  • Job loss and chronic unemployment
  • Financial difficulties
  • Worsening medical problems
  • Worsening symptoms of co-occurring disorders
  • Addiction
  • Pervasive sense of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Suicidal behaviors

If you or someone you care about has experienced any signs, symptoms, short-term effects, or long-term effects of an adjustment disorder, seek professional care.

As noted earlier on this page, adjustment disorders are associated with increased risk of suicide. If you fear that you or someone in your life is in imminent danger, call 911 or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

When you get the type and level of help you need, you can learn to manage the signs and symptoms of adjustment disorders, reduce your risk for ongoing difficulties, and begin to heal from any harm you have already experienced.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who have adjustment disorders

Many people who struggle with adjustment disorders are also dealing with one or more additional mental or behavioral health concerns. Clinicians refer to these additional challenges as “co-occurring disorders.”

The American Psychiatric Association reports that adjustment disorders can occur alongside most forms of mental illness and all types of medical concerns. People who have adjustment disorders may be at risk for co-occurring disorders such as the following:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depressive disorders
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Substance use disorders (this is the clinical term for addiction)

The onset of adjustment disorders and the co-occurring disorders listed above can vary from person to person. In some cases, the individual first experiences the signs and symptoms of an adjustment disorder, and then begins to struggle with a co-occurring disorder. In other cases, the order is reversed. Still others develop adjustment disorders without ever experiencing a co-occurring disorder.

The potential presence of co-occurring disorders and the impact that these conditions can have on treatment and recovery are among the many reasons why it’s important to seek professional care from a provider who can offer thorough assessments and comprehensive solutions.

Failing to identify and properly address co-occurring disorders can undermine a person’s ability to overcome the signs, symptoms, and effects of adjustment disorders.