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Can a Person Have a Trauma or Stressor-Related Disorder that Does Not Meet the Normal Criteria?

Yes. A diagnosis of “unspecified trauma- or stress-related disorder” is used for patients who have symptoms in response to an identifiable stressor but do not meet the full criteria of any specified trauma- or stressor-related disorder (e.g., acute stress disorder, PTSD, or adjustment disorder). For example, their symptoms may occur more than 3 months after the stressor, or their symptoms may last longer than 6 months. The symptoms cannot meet the criteria for another mental or medical disorder, and cannot be attributed to the physiological effects of a substance.

What are Adjustment Disorders?

An adjustment disorder is a depressive or anxious condition resulting from an emotional response to a stressful event. Typically, the stressor involves financial issues, a medical illness, or a relationship problem. For a diagnosis of adjustment disorder, symptoms must begin within 3 months of the stressor.

Symptoms of an adjustment disorder include one or both of the following:

  •  Marked distress that is out of proportion to the severity or intensity of the stressor, taking into account the context and cultural factors that may affect symptom severity.
  • Significant impairment in social, occupation, or other important areas of functioning.
    Once the stressor or its consequences have ended, the symptoms do not persist beyond 6 more months.

How are Adjustment Disorders Treated?

Psychotherapy remains the treatment of choice for adjustment disorders. Individual psychotherapy offers patients the opportunity to explore the meaning of the stressor so that earlier trauma can be worked through. After successful therapy, patients sometimes emerge from an adjustment disorder stronger than before. Group therapy can be helpful for patients who share the same types of issues.

Mental Health Library Sources:

Information included in all topics of the Mental Health Library comes from the Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria From DSM-5 and Kaplan & Sadock’s Concise Textbook of Clinical Psychiatry. Complete diagnostic and treatment information may be found within these publications.


Information within the Mental Health Library is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis purposes. Rather, it is provided as a public educational service to make people aware of mental health conditions. Please consult a qualified mental health professional for a diagnosis of any suspected mental health illness.

© Copyright 2023 HUPCFL All Rights Reserved.


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