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Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety

Adjustment disorder with anxiety is temporary and there is effective treatment. Learn more about symptoms, effects, treatments on HealthyPlace.com.

Adjustment disorder with anxiety is one of six types of adjustment disorders described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), the accepted authority on mental illness published by the American Psychiatric Association. All adjustment disorders share these common features:

  • They’re caused by an identifiable stressor(s) of any size
  • They have pronounced emotional and/or behavioral symptoms in response to the stressor that exceed an expected stress response

When the symptoms of adjustment disorder are anxious in nature, then the specific diagnosis is adjustment disorder with anxiety.

Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety

Adjustment disorder with anxiety occurs when someone is having difficulty adjusting to and coping with a life stressor or change. Whether the stressor is big or small, if it leads to life-disrupting anxiety, the person is said to have adjustment disorder with anxiety.

The symptoms of adjustment disorder with anxiety can include:

Adjustment disorder with anxiety can make people feel overwhelmed. A stressor causes adjustment disorder, and the resulting symptoms of anxiety can make the stressor even more difficult to deal with. It can become a vicious cycle of stress, difficulty coping with and adjusting to the stressor, and anxiety that can be difficult to break out of. Of course, this perpetuates anxiety.

Difference between Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders

Because the primary symptoms of adjustment disorder with anxiety are anxiety-based, it can be difficult to know whether someone has adjustment disorder or an anxiety disorder. A key to differentiating adjustment disorder with anxiety from anxiety disorders is examining the cause of the symptoms of anxiety.

Adjustment disorder with anxiety is caused by one or more specific stressors that can be identified. Prior to the onset of the stressor, symptoms of anxiety are either absent or minimal. If the stressor leads to anxiety, then adjustment disorder with anxiety is likely. If anxiety is present before a stressor is experienced, then the diagnosis is an anxiety disorder rather than an adjustment disorder.

When someone experiences a stressor or a series of identifiable stressors and develops symptoms of anxiety as result, he/she likely is experiencing adjustment disorder with anxiety. A visit to a doctor can help determine this and get him/her on the path to wellness with a treatment plan.

Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety Temporary and Treatable

Experiencing one or more stressors and dealing with symptoms of anxiety that disrupt mental health and wellbeing is frustrating at best. Happily, it’s also temporary. Adjustment disorder with anxiety can be overcome.

People can transcend adjustment disorder with anxiety. Effective adjustment disorder treatment exists, and it involves addressing the stressor as well as treating the symptoms, in this case, the symptoms of anxiety. Therapy can help people address the stressors and develop skills and techniques to deal with anxiety.

Sometimes, medication taken temporarily can help reduce the symptoms of anxiety.

Once the stressor is removed or the person has learned to adjust to and cope with it, adjustment disorder with anxiety wanes within six months. People have the ability to live free from adjustment disorder with anxiety.


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next: Adjustment Disorder with Disturbance of Conduct
~ all articles on adjustment disorder
~ all articles on ptsd and stress disorders

Last Updated: 30 August 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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