Adjustment Disorder

Adjustment Disorder

What is an adjustment disorder?

It is common for people to encounter stressful situations throughout their lives. For example, people are likely to experience stress when preparing for an examination or moving out to a new living space, or in life-changing events such as parental divorce or the death of a family member.

However, people who develop adjustment disorders have a tendency to experience disproportionate levels of stress symptoms which would be expected to cause stress.”

People who face adjustment disorders may experience feelings of anxiety and symptoms of depression as a consequence of the stressful event. Individuals ranging from children to the elderly can develop adjustment disorders.

What causes adjustment disorders and what are the risk factors?

Adjustment disorders occur as a response to stressful situations, although there are no clearly defined one-to-one relationship between any particular triggering event and the consequent reaction. This is because individuals can vary greatly in their personalities, life experiences and ability to cope with stress.

The stressful event itself can differ in its duration, severity, and how much it affects the person.

However, there have been several risk factors that have been linked to an increased likelihood of experiencing adjustment disorder. This includes particularly stressful life events, such as:

  • Sudden and drastic change in daily routine, such as retirement, moving out for university, or having a baby
  • The rise of unfortunate circumstances, such as losing a job, financial instability, or loss of a loved one.
  • Divorce, marital problems, and other interpersonal disruptions
  • Struggling at work or in school
  • Life-threatening experiences like combat, natural disasters, or assault
  • Persistent stressors including medical illness

Various circumstances, such as the social factors, life experiences, and familial background can influence a person’s ability to manage stress. A person’s natural response to stressors can affect the severity of an adjustment disorder, or even change how it manifests in a person.

The risk of developing adjustment disorder may be affected by the following circumstances:

  • Having other mental health complications
  • Experienced significant stress during formative years
  • The coinciding of multiple harsh life circumstances happening simultaneously

Symptoms of adjustment disorders

When a person faces a form of adjustment disorder, it can manifest through emotional or behavioural irregularity. The exact nature of this irregularity depends on the individual’s age, cultural background, and individual characteristics.

For example, adolescent symptoms tend to exhibit themselves in a behavioural form, such as acts of rebellion. In contrast, adults who experience adjustment disorders are more likely to display emotional symptoms.

Here is a list of symptoms that may be indicative of an adjustment disorder:

  • A feeling of hopelessness and sadness
  • An inability to enjoy activities that used to be satisfying and fulfilling
  • Having trouble concentrating on work
  • Frequent crying
  • A sense of being overwhelmed
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Reduced appetite
  • Avoiding important tasks such as going to work 
  • Withdrawing from social support, such as friends and family
  • Excessive worrying; feeling anxious, nervous, jittery or stressed out all the time
  • Difficulty functioning in daily activities


Typically, symptoms of an adjustment disorder occur within three months of a stressful event and do not last beyond 6 months after the end of the event. However, chronic adjustment disorders can cause symptoms to continue beyond the 6-month period.

If adjustment disorders are allowed to persist for a long period of time, it may result in the development of other mental health complications that include the likelihood of anxiety disorders and depression.

In the worst-case scenario, it could also lead to substance abuse, and even suicidal thoughts and behaviours. If you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide, contact a specialist under MINDCENTRIC ParkCity Medical Centre (PMC) immediately.

How can I manage adjustment disorder?

MINDCENTRIC under PMC is home to several highly trained clinical psychologists and psychiatrists who are dedicated to offering comprehensive treatments for adjustment disorders as well as other mental health issues.

Schedule an appointment today to ensure that you and your family have a chance to manage the symptoms before it gets worse.

Meet our Specialist

Dr Lim Chong Hum

Consultant Psychiatrist

Dr Wan Izwin Wan Hassan

Consultant Psychiatrist, Geriatric Psychiatry

Ms Tan Pei Jun

Clinical Psychologist, Unit Head

Ms Loo Mei Chien

Clinical Psychologist