Adjustment Disorders Differential Diagnoses

Updated: Nov 22, 2021
  • Author: Julia B Frank, MD; Chief Editor: David Bienenfeld, MD  more...
  • Print
DDx

Diagnostic Considerations

Adjustment disorders are located on a continuum between normal stress reactions and specific psychiatric disorders. Symptoms are not likely to represent a normal reaction if they are at least moderately severe, if they result in impairment of daily social or occupational functioning, or if they threaten a person’s life.

The presence of a full-blown depressive syndrome precludes the diagnosis of an adjustment disorder in DSM-5. A stress reaction that is culturally appropriate, or which does not unduly impair functioning, should not be diagnosed as an adjustment disorder.  Otherwise, one should look for comorbid conditions, rather than attempting to “rule out” related disorders such as PTSD, generalized anxiety disorder, or personality disorders.