An adjustment disorder is defined as an emotional or behavioral reaction to an identifiable stressful event or change in a person’s life that is considered maladaptive or somehow not an expected healthy response to the event or change.
The reaction must occur within three months of the identified stressful event or change happening. The identifiable stressful event or change in the life of a child or adolescent may be a maladaptive response to a family move, a parental divorce or separation, the loss of a pet, or the birth of a brother or sister. A sudden illness, or restriction to a child’s life because of chronic illness may also provoke an adjustment response.
Work problems, going away to school, an illness, death of a close family member or any number of life changes can cause stress. Most of the time, people adjust to such changes within a few months. But if you have an adjustment disorder, you continue to have emotional or behavioral reactions that can contribute to feeling anxious or depressed.