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Social Security Disability For Adjustment Disorders

Can You Get Disability for Adjustment Disorders?

An adjustment disorder is an adverse emotional reaction to a stressful change in one’s life. An adjustment disorder may present symptoms similar to depression, but their characterizing feature is that the reaction to the stressful event disproportionally exceeds what would typically be expected given the situation. Patients with adjustment disorders often share symptoms of crying, hopelessness, anxiety, and a loss of interest in things they once enjoyed.

A triggering event that causes an adjustment disorder significantly interferes with social, occupational or educational functioning. Sufferers may experience a lack of ability to manage their everyday lives, leading to significant problems, such as conflicts at home, marital distress, or struggles with finances. For example, a young person may have trouble in school after having recently lost a loved one.

While significant life events often trigger adjustment disorders, minor disturbances in the lives of some people can also cause the disorder. For example, a person who receives a negative performance appraisal at work could find it difficult to motivate or concentrate on work-related tasks, demonstrating signs of the disorder.

Adjustment Disorders Disability

If a reaction to a specific trigger is severe enough, it could interfere with a person’s ability to perform everyday tasks over the long term. People suffering from this type of disorder will often attempt to avoid work or school to prevent exposure to a triggering situation.

This behavior may eventually lead to financial instability and other problems. In these cases, it may be possible for those suffering with an adjustment disorder to collect disability benefits.

Adjustment Disorder Symptoms

Since this disorder is based on specific triggers, symptoms may vary from person to person. While stress is a common occurrence in the lives of many, people with this type of disorder react more severely than most. Symptoms can be severe and may last up to six months or longer, depending on various factors, such as treatment or whether the trigger has been removed from a person’s life.

Common Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder Are:

  • Depression.
  • Feelings of hopelessness.
  • Anxiety.
  • Lack of sleep or trouble sleeping.
  • Headaches.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Negative changes in behavior, such as lashing out, recklessness, etc.
  • Withdrawing from social situations.
  • Suicidal feelings, thoughts, and behavior.

Symptoms are not exclusive to the list above. Depending on the type of adjustment disorder, a person is diagnosed with varying degrees of severity.The Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) follows a special process to rate their employees. They tend to rate service-connected disabilities as per the “schedule of rating disabilities.” The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has its own disability compensation process for qualifying veterans who sustained illnesses or injuries while serving in the military. The VA uses Part 4 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 38, titled the “Schedule of Rating Disabilities” to evaluate veteran’s with service-connected disabilities.

Adjustment Disorder Diagnosis

The American Psychiatric Association created adjustment disorder diagnosis criteria that many practitioners follow. The criteria are as follows:

  1. Emotional and behavioral symptoms present themselves within three months of a trigger situation taking place.
  2. The response to the trigger is more severe than usual, affecting day-to-day tasks, work-related tasks, school, or behavior in social settings.
  3. Symptoms are not related to another diagnosis or from natural grief.
  4. The symptoms do not last longer than six months once the trigger(s) have been removed.

A mental health or other medical expert will determine whether a patient meets the criteria to diagnose an adjustment disorder. Keep in mind, however, that there are several types, which vary by symptoms.

Types and Causes of Adjustment Disorders

Depending on the types of symptoms present, a person could be diagnosed with one of the following types of adjustment disorders:

  1. Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety- The main symptom experienced with this type is anxiety. This could leave a person feeling extremely worried, nervous, overwhelmed, and therefore unable to concentrate.
  2. Adjustment Disorder with Depressed Mood- Depression is the main symptom experienced with this diagnosis. Feelings of extreme sadness, lack of self-esteem, hopelessness, and a total lack of pleasure are common.
  3. Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Anxiety and Depressed Mood- People diagnosed with this type experience both depression and anxiety and all of the symptoms that come with each.
  4. Adjustment Disorder with Disturbance of Conduct- This type presents behavioral symptoms. Reckless driving or initiating fights may occur.
  5. Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Disturbance of Emotions and Conduct- If someone presents depressed, anxious, and also has behavioral symptoms, they may be diagnosed with this type of adjustment disorder.
  6. Adjustment Disorder (Unspecified)- This type is a catch-all for those who present symptoms that fall outside of depression, anxiety, and behavioral disturbances. For example, suppose a person responds adversely to a life event that hinders them from functioning appropriately at work, at school, with family, and with friends. Perhaps the symptoms do not present neatly as depressed, anxious, or behavioral. In such cases, they may be diagnosed with an unspecified adjustment disorder.

Getting adjustment disorder disability benefits can be quite daunting if you do not have proper knowledge about complicated disability law. To make the process easier, it is advisable to hire experienced disability lawyers who understand the process and how to substantiate a claim for benefits.

Adjustment Disorder Causes.

Typically a significant or stressful situation or life event will trigger an adjustment disorder. There are a multitude of stressful triggering events that can include, but are not limited to:

  1. Financial troubles
  2. Sudden life changes like moving, divorce, or the death of a loved one
  3. Health issues
  4. Marital or nonmarital relationship troubles
  5. Sudden disasters like a car accident
  6. Unemployment or a new job

Can You Get Disability Benefits for an Adjustment Disorder?

There are no Social Security Administration (SSA) medical conditions among its listing of impairments that expressly includes adjustment disorders; however, the symptoms that coincide with an adjustment disorder, like depression, anxiety disorder, or bipolar disorder may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

The SSA qualification criteria requires medical evidence that shows the person experienced four or more depressive symptoms regularly for at least one year. Symptoms must be severe enough to be disabling. Prolonged symptoms must be shown to significantly reduce the ability of the sufferer to work, engage in social activities, or complete routine daily activities.

Some common symptoms are:

  1. Fatigue.
  2. Decreased ability to concentrate.
  3. Sleep disturbances.
  4. Excessive weight gain or loss.
  5. Loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyable.
  6. Thoughts of suicide.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to obtain objective medical documentation needed because of the nature of the condition. Therefore, it can be difficult to obtain approval for disability benefits for an adjustment disorder. When a person applies for adjustment disorder disability benefits, they are evaluated by the Social Security Administration’s officials. Evaluation is based on medical records. These records need to be accurate and complete to include diagnose and treatment notes.
People with an adjustment disorder should schedule regular appointments with their therapist or other mental health professional to maintain full documentation of their condition. This can help to increase the chances of receiving approval for SSDI benefits. Evidence that a sufferer cannot cope in a work environment for which they are qualified is necessary.

Adjustment Disorder Treatment and a Few More Essentials

The main course of treatment is typically psychotherapy. Many mental health professionals believe that it is better for the person to identify the trigger so that they understand when and how to respond to the stress it creates. This may help ease the symptoms of adjustment disorders. Therapy could be one-on-one with a mental health professional, as a family, or within a support group.


In addition to psychotherapy, some mental health professionals may recommend medication to help with sleep, ease depression, or relieve anxiety. If these treatments are successful, the symptoms should diminish over time. If the trigger is not identified and removed from the person’s life, however, there is a chance that symptoms will return.

Difference Between Adjustment Disorder vs. PTSD- While adverse symptoms related to adjustment disorders and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are caused by stressors, the diagnoses are not the same. PTSD develops as a result of an extremely traumatizing event. The symptoms of PTSD also tend to last longer. Both disorders are impacted by stressors or triggers, but PTSD is caused by excessive trauma whereas an adjustment disorder involves a disproportionate response to an otherwise normal or anticipated life event.

Difference Between Adjustment Disorder vs. Depression-Depression is a symptom of adjustment disorders, but Major Depressive Disorder is a different diagnosis. An adjustment disorder with depression as a symptom can only be diagnosed if it is not part of the natural grieving process. Major Depressive Disorder, however, is characterized by a persistently depressed mood and loss of interest in pleasurable activities and other aspects of life. This often accompanied by other symptoms such as insomnia, feelings of guilt or inadequacy, and suicidal ideation.

Difference Between Adjustment Disorder vs. Acute Stress Disorder- Once again, stress or anxiety is a symptom of an adjustment disorder but is not the same as Acute Stress Disorder. The symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder do not last as long as those of an adjustment disorder. Acute Stress Disorder symptoms begin within a month of the traumatic event and generally last anywhere between three days to one month, as opposed to six months.

Talk to an Experienced Disability Attorney to Seek Benefits for Adjustment Disorder

Disability Lawyers in Illinois have in-depth knowledge about applying for disability benefits due to adjustment disorder with both the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Social Security Administration. They can guide you in many ways so that you have all the medical and work-related documentation necessary to substantiate your claim for benefits. Chermol & Fishman, LLC is a leading law firm with highly experienced VA disability and SSDI lawyers on the team to assist you.

We can evaluate your case accurately before you ever file a claim to improve your odds of being approved the first time, faster. We stand by to represent you from obtaining documentation, to beginning the application process, and advocating for you before an appeals board, should that become necessary.

Book a consultation to discuss your disability claim concerns, and get only the very best legal help.

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