What are the six types of Adjustment Disorders?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

What is

What are the six types of Adjustment Disorders?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Adjustment Disorders include six types or specifiers.

In another post, I wrote about adjustment disorders. You might want to take a look at that post.  You will find it in the trauma- and stressor-related disorders category. But to briefly recap, an adjustment disorder is a time when you experience stress and that amount of stress is more than you can handle.

The kind of things that you might find stressful, and how that stress might affect you, can vary a great deal from one person to another.  Adjustment Disorder can be very chameleon-like, changing from person to person and from time to time. As a result of this variation and in order to help find the correct treatment for each person, professionals use six different specifiers for various presentations of adjustment disorder.  Listed below are the six specifiers or sub-types of adjustment disorder that are listed in the new DSM – 5.

Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood (F43.21).

Sometimes in addition to having difficulty coping with a stressor, as a result of this life problem, people develop depression.  If this goes on long enough or is severe enough they might eventually get a diagnosis of Major Depressive Disorder.  But until that happens treatment will mainly focus on the stressor and the depression that stressor is causing.

Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety (F43.22).

Sometimes the primary symptom that people experience when they are going through stress is an increase in their anxiety.  If this increase in anxiety is related to a specific stressor, is more severe than we expect, or goes on too long, Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety is the likely problem.

Adjustment Disorder with both Depression and Anxiety (F43.23).

Anxiety and depression frequently happen to people at the same time.  If this stressor has produced both depression and anxiety, then this specifier should be added.

Adjustment Disorder with Conduct Problems (F43.24).

Sometimes the principle way we know that stress has affected somebody is that they begin to act in inappropriate ways.  This diagnosis with this specifier is most commonly seen in children who rather than show their symptoms as anxiety or depression, begin to act out.

Adjustment Disorder with Disturbance of Emotions and Conduct (F43.25).

When stress overcomes a person’s ability to cope, we may see changes both in their behavior and in their feelings.  This is often the case in children and adolescents but may also be seen in adults with poor emotional regulation.

Adjustment Disorder Unspecified (F43.20).

When the counselor knows that the problem the client has is caused by their reaction to stress but none of the other sub-types quite seem to fit, this category may be used.

As with the other things we are calling a mental illness this problem needs to interfere with your ability to work or go to school, your relationships, your enjoyable activities, or cause you personal distress. Otherwise, you may have the issues but you will not get the diagnoses if this is not causing you a problem. If the only time this happens is when you are under the influence of drugs or medicines or because of some other physical or medical problem, this problem needs to be more than your situation would warrant. These other issue needs treating first, then if you still have symptoms you could get this diagnosis.

FYI These “What is” sometimes “What are” posts are my efforts to explain terms commonly used in Mental Health, Clinical Counseling, Substance Use Disorder Counseling, Psychology, Life Coaching, and related disciplines in a plain language way. Many are based on the new DSM-5; some of the older posts were based on the DSM-IV-TR, both published by the APA. For the more technical versions please consult the DSM or other appropriate references.

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4 thoughts on “What are the six types of Adjustment Disorders?

    • Interesting comment. Your site, under DSM codes, lists 5 “types” of adjustment disorders. But you are listing them by the old DSM-IV codes. As of October of 2015 we in the U.S. have been using the DSM-5 which now lists 5 “types” of adjustment disorders. I think what you are talking about in the comment is that there are a lot of other disorders that can be caused by life stressors. Many disorders also have specifiers or “subtypes.”
      Most mental illnesses are classified by symptoms not causes, but absolutely many other problems of living can be cased by a stressor. Thanks for the comment. Best wishes.


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