What Is Adjustment Disorder with Disturbance of Conduct?

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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2019
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An adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct defines one of six subtypes of a mental disorder caused by temporary stress in a person’s life. It might provoke behavioral symptoms deemed inappropriate and without regard for other people’s rights. Some patients with this problem break the law through vandalism, truancy, or fighting. This disorder might lead to trouble with law enforcement.

Adjustment disorders, including adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct, typically arise after a life-changing event causing stress. It could be a negative event, such as the end of a marriage, loss of a job, or death in the family. Positive occasions might also induce adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct, including the birth of a child, getting married, or moving to accept a long-awaited job opportunity.

Psychotherapists typically diagnose adjustment disorders by evaluating whether the symptoms appear excessive when compared to the stressor in a patient’s life. The condition generally describes an overreaction marked by inappropriate behavior at school, in the workplace, or in social settings. Signs of this disorder usually appear within three months of the life experience that produced stress, and symptoms commonly resolve within six months.

Once a patient adjusts to the stressful event, the disorder typically goes away. If symptoms last beyond six months, therapists look for other mental problems that might be troubling a patient. Some therapists reach a diagnosis of this condition when symptoms do not fit any other known mental health problem.


Adjustment disorders might cause depression, hopelessness, anxiety, or certain physical ailments. A person who reacts to periods of turmoil with inappropriate behavior and depression might be suffering from mixed adjustment disorder with disturbance of conduct, one of the six subtypes of the disorder. If problems persist or reoccur over time, the condition might be labeled chronic.

Treatment of adjustment disorders typically involves psychotherapy to help a patient deal with problems and learn coping mechanisms. A therapist might devise a short-term treatment plan that includes relaxation techniques to reduce stress. The use of medication is rare for this disorder, but it might be prescribed if a patient exhibits severe depression or anxiety.

Some people seek support groups to deal with adjustment disorders. These groups commonly deal with a wide range of problems, including bereavement, illness, and dealing with divorce. Support groups might help a patient understand his or her behavior by discussing difficulties with others who face similar troubles.


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