Difference Between Adjustment Disorder and PTSD (With Table)

Adjustment Disorders and PTSD are both stress-related or trauma-related disorders. Symptoms of both disorders are somewhat similar, which is why they are often confused. Although the disorders are both triggered by traumatic or stress-related events, they differ considerably in many ways. 

Adjustment Disorder vs PTSD 

The difference between Adjustment Disorder and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is that the symptoms of Adjustment Disorder are comparatively less intense than that of PTSD, which involves marked distress and functioning impairment. On the other hand, the effects of PTSD are more intense as it involves symptoms like negative changes in mood, dissociative reactions, and recurrent nightmares, which are significantly more intense symptoms.  

Adjustment Disorder (AD) is a type of disorder caused due to the inability of an individual to deal with a new situation or some changes in life. These changes can include- unemployment, change of community or environment, and many other factors. The symptoms of this disorder are comparatively less intense than that of PTSD. However, it can cause some significant disturbances in a person’s social and professional life. Therefore, getting help from a mental health professional is necessary.  

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a type of disorder caused or triggered due to suffering from a traumatic experience like abuse, war, or calamity. The symptoms of this disorder are comparatively more intense than that of Adjustment Disorder. The symptoms of this disorder are intense enough to interfere with the relationships and work-life of an individual. Hence, reaching out for immediate help is necessary. 

Comparison Table Between Adjustment Disorder and PTSD 

  Parameters of Comparison   Adjustment Disorder  PTSD 
 Symptoms Intensity The intensity of the symptoms is comparatively less than PTSD.  The intensity of the symptoms is comparatively more than Adjustment Disorder.  
 Stressor  Some significant changes in a life situation like unemployment, environment, or community change.  Some intense and serious events like- sexual abuse, violence, war, and calamities. 
 Duration  Symptoms start manifesting within three months of the onset of the stressor and should not last more than six months.  The symptoms will last for more than a month, and delayed expressions can occur at least six months after the event. 
 Specifiers  It can be specified by a depressed mood, anxiety, or disturbance of conduct.  It can be specified with dissociative symptoms or delayed expression. 
 Prevalence  Prevalence of Adjustment Disorder is more common compared to PTSD.  Prevalence of PTSD is less common compared to Adjustment Disorder. 

What is Adjustment Disorder (AD)? 

Adjustment Disorder (AD) is a type of disorder caused due to the inability of an individual to deal with a new situation or some life changes. Among these factors are unemployment, community or environmental changes, and many others. The disorder is, at times, also known as Situational depression or Reactive depression. The prevalence of AD is more compared to PTSD.  

The symptoms of Adjustment Disorder (AD) are less intense compared to PTSD. The symptoms can start manifesting within three months of the stressor’s onset and usually last no more than six months. The disorder can be characterised by a depressed mood, anxiety, mixed anxiety, disturbance of conduct, and more. 

An individual with AD might be unable to handle the stressors due to fatigue or additional stress. This, in turn, can cause significant disturbances to a person’s social as well as professional life. Therefore, getting help from a mental health professional is necessary.  

What is PTSD? 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition caused or triggered due to suffering from a traumatic experience like sexual abuse, violence, war, or calamity. This trauma can happen due to first-hand experience, as a witness or direct experience, and through repeated exposure to emergencies like police, firefighters. The prevalence of PTSD is less common compared to AD.  

The symptoms of PTSD are more intense compared to Adjustment Disorder. The symptoms of PTSD will last for more than a month, and the delayed expressions can occur at least six months after the event. The disorder can be characterised by delayed expression and dissociative symptoms.   

Reactivity changes such as aggressiveness, hypervigilance, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disturbances may also occur. The symptoms of this disorder are intense enough to interfere with the relationships and work-life of an individual. It can also impair crucial areas of functioning. Hence, reaching out for immediate help is necessary.  

Main Differences Between Adjustment Disorder and PTSD 

  1. The symptoms of Adjustment Disorder (AD) are less intense compared to PTSD, whereas the symptoms of PTSD are more intense compared to AD. 
  2. Stressors for Adjustment Disorder can be some significant changes in a life situation like unemployment, environment, or community change. On the other hand, stressors for PTSD can be some intense and serious events like- sexual abuse, violence, war, and calamities. 
  3. The symptoms for AD can start manifesting within three months of the stressor’s onset and usually last no more than six months. On the other hand, the symptoms of PTSD will last for more than a month, and the delayed expressions can occur at least six months after the event. 
  4. Anxiety, depression, mixed anxiety, and disturbance of conduct are some of the specifiers of AD. On the other hand, delayed expression and dissociative symptoms are specifiers of PTSD.  
  5. Prevalence of Adjustment Disorder is more common compared to PTSD, whereas, the prevalence of PTSD is less common compared to AD. 

Conclusion 

Adjustment Disorders and PTSD are both stress-related or trauma-related disorders. Symptoms of both disorders are somewhat similar, which is why they are often confused. Although the disorders are both triggered by traumatic or stress-related events, they differ considerably in many ways. 

Adjustment Disorder (AD) is a type of disorder caused due to the inability of an individual to deal with a new situation or some life changes. Among these factors are unemployment, community or environmental changes, and many others. The disorder can be characterised by a depressed mood, anxiety, mixed anxiety, disturbance of conduct, and more. An individual with AD might be unable to handle the stressors due to fatigue or additional stress. 

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition caused or triggered due to suffering from a traumatic experience like sexual abuse, violence, war, or calamity. The disorder can be characterised by delayed expression and dissociative symptoms. Reactivity changes such as aggressiveness, hypervigilance, difficulty concentrating, and sleep disturbances may also occur. The symptoms of this disorder are intense enough to interfere with the relationships and work-life of an individual. 

The main point of difference between PTSD and AD is that their level of intensity is different. 

References 

  1. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0165178117301695 
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5790100/ 
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