Adjustment Disorders are found in approximately 10% of adults and 32% of adolescents. They are generally self-limiting, not lasting more than 6 months in duration. Adults generally have a course that is more limited and less severe than adolescents, and require less treatment.
The Adjustment Disorder is defined as a maladaptive response to a normal, psychosocial stressor that has occurred in the past three months, and is not caused by another mental illness. This means that it must last longer than a normal persons response to the stressor and cause impairment in social, academic, or work functioning. It cannot be caused by grief due to bereavement (death of a loved one).
They present with generalized symptoms such a disruption of mood or conduct, with depression and anxiety being the most common mood disruption. In adults, depression is most common, while in children conduct and behavioral problems are the most commonly seen. Suicidal thoughts may also be seen with this disorder.
There is controversy as to whether to treat adjustment disorder at all, since they are so self-limiting. When therapy is indicated, it generally is brief, time-limited, and very focused on the problems linked directly to the stressor.