Adjustment Disorders

James J. Strain, Kim Klipstein, Jeffrey H. Newcorn, Michael B. First

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The adjustment disorders (ADs) are one of the subthreshold disorders that has undergone a major evolution since the original Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association of 1952. The essential characteristics of AD is the presence of clinically significant emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to an identifiable psychosocial stressor. Although the issue of boundaries in mental disorders is obviously profound and common, the issue of defining boundaries is especially problematic in the subthreshold diagnoses, for example AD, in which there are no symptom check lists, algorithms, or guidelines for the "quantification of clinical features." There are six AD subtypes: (1) depressed mood; (2) anxiety; (3) mixed anxiety and depressed mood; (4) disturbance of conduct; (5) mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct; and (6) unspecified. In addition there is an acute form (persistence of symptoms less than 6 months) and a chronic form (persistence of symptoms for more than 6 months) after the termination of the stressor or its consequences. Etiologically, the ADs are in the stress-related category of mental disorders and treatment often involves attempting to eliminate or mitigate the stressor(s), or to enhance coping with them. The AD diagnosis in children and youth has been related to more serious mental illness in adulthood. In adults the subthreshold disorder usually remits after the cessation of the putative stressor: Counseling and psychotherapy may be employed with more refractory patients.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPsychiatry
Subtitle of host publicationThird Edition
PublisherJohn Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9780470065716
StatePublished - 8 Aug 2008


  • Adjustment disorders
  • Stress reactions
  • Subthreshold diagnoses


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