The adjustment disorders are defined as reactions to an identifiable psychosocial stressor (e.g., cancer diagnosis) with a degree of psychopathology that is less severe than diagnosable mental disorders such as major depressive disorder or generalized anxiety disorder and yet are “in excess of what would be expected” or result in “significant impairment in social or occupational functioning.”
Diagnostic criteria for the adjustment disorders
Criterion A. The development of emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to an identifiable stressor(s) occurring within 3 months of the onset of the stressor(s).
Criterion B. These symptoms or behaviors are clinically significant as evidenced by either of the following:
- Marked distress that is in excess of what would be expected from exposure to the stressor.
- Significant impairment in social or occupational (academic) functioning.
Criterion C. The stress-related disturbance does not meet the criteria for another specific Axis I disorder and is not merely an exacerbation of a preexisting Axis I or Axis II disorder.
Criterion D. The symptoms do not represent bereavement.
Criterion E. Once the stressor (or its consequences) has terminated, the symptoms do not persist for more than an additional 6 months.
- Acute if the disturbance lasts less than 6 months.
- Chronic if the disturbance lasts for 6 months or longer.
Specific subtypes represent the predominant symptoms and include:
- With depressed mood.
- With anxiety.
- With mixed anxiety and depressed mood.
- With disturbance of conduct.
- With mixed disturbance of emotions and conduct unspecified.
Reference: American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Fourth Edition, Text Revision. Washington, DC. American Psychiatric Association. 2000. Page 679