adjustment disorder

Last reviewed 01/2018

An adjustment reaction is the psychological reaction to profound change in a person's life such as divorce, migration or birth of a handicapped child.

An adjustment reaction is characterised by anxiety and depression. The timecourse of the disorder allows a distinction to drawn with an acute stress reaction:

  • symptoms appear soon after a life event (within 3 months for DSM III-R or 1 month for ICD 10), however the onset is slower than in an acute stress reaction
  • symptoms last longer than in an acute stress reaction

An adjustment reaction may be diagnosed provided that:

  • the features of an anxiety or depression are not severe enough to be classified as a psychiatric disorder in their own right
  • there is no previous psychiatric history