Mayo Clinic Health Library

Question

Normal stress or adjustment disorder?

What's the difference between normal stress and an adjustment disorder?

Updated: 01-29-2013

Answer

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to positive or negative situations in your life, such as a new job or the death of a loved one. Stress itself isn't abnormal or bad. What's important is how you deal with stress.

When you have so much trouble adjusting to a stressful change that you find it difficult to go about your daily routine, you may have developed an adjustment disorder. An adjustment disorder is a type of stress-related mental illness that can affect your feelings, thoughts and behaviors. An adjustment disorder can occur in both adults and children.

Signs and symptoms of an adjustment disorder can include:

  • Anxiety
  • Poor school or work performance
  • Relationship problems
  • Sadness
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Worry
  • Trouble sleeping

If you're dealing with a stressful situation in your life, try self-help measures, such as talking things over with caring family or friends, practicing yoga or meditation, getting regular exercise, and cutting back on your to-do list. If these techniques don't help and you feel like you're still having a hard time coping, talk to your doctor.