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An adjustment disorder or stress response syndrome is a condition that occurs when a person has difficulty coping with an extremely stressful event. Experts use the two terms interchangeably, with adjustment disorder being more common. These conditions involve a normal emotional or behavioral reaction that develops more intensely than in the average person. Doctors have recognized similar conditions for a long time, though these terms only appeared in the mental disorders classification systems around 30 years ago.

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1. Symptoms

Many people view adjustment disorder as a milder form of anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, or PTSD. Adjustment disorder shares many characteristics with these conditions: nervousness, anxiety, and feelings of desperation and hopelessness. Thoughts of suicide, suicidal behavior, and self-harm are all prominent among individuals with adjustment disorders. Despite these similarities, the disorder results from an outside stressor, while anxiety and depressive disorders often stem from internal triggers. Symptoms of an adjustment disorder can be acute or chronic, persisting for less than six months, or more.

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