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Quick Facts on Adjustment Disorder

A brief overview of the signs and symptoms of adjustment disorder, and how it's treated in children and adolescents.

en Español


Adjustment disorder is an unusually strong or long-lasting reaction to stressful event such as a divorce, a death in the family, moving to a new home, or starting a different school. A child with the disorder has a hard time coping with his emotions and may become depressed or anxious, exhibit hostility, pick fights, or refuse to go to school. Adjustment disorder can occur in young children as well as adolescents and usually lasts less than 6 months.


Treatment for Adjustment Disorder

Talk therapy is extremely effective in treating adjustment disorder. A therapist might encourage the child to express emotions in a supportive setting, or use cognitive behavioral therapy to help him learn to control his reaction to the stressful event he has experienced, and learn healthier ways of dealing with future stressful situations. Treatment is usually short-term, though occasionally it might take months.

A doctor may prescribe low doses of an antidepressant medication if a child is acutely anxious or depressed or has suicidal thoughts. In most cases medication treatment, too, is short-lived.

This article was last reviewed or updated on October 30, 2023.