From Crisis to Adjustment Disorder: A Medicalization of a Concept?
Psik. Tsvi GİL
2013; 24(1): 58-62

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This review aimed to compare two concepts in the psychiatric literature: crisis and adjustment disorder. The two concepts stem from different theoretical perspectives, rely upon different (though relatively loose) bodies of data, and may serve different purposes. The concept of crisis originated from an approach that could be considered psychodynamic, humanistic, and community oriented. Treatment, according to this approach, is known as crisis intervention and is characterized as being principally psychological, social, humanistic, and systemic. The generic approach to crisis calls for immediate aid rather than for a diagnosis and regular appointments, as is customary in psychiatric practice. The concept of adjustment disorder, on the other hand, is a rather medical nosological approach, which strives to achieve a phenomenological and objective description of the patient, and which may lead to ordinary psychiatric treatment, such as pharmacotherapy.

Herein we present a review of literature on both approaches, with an emphasis on theoretical and empirical data. The findings appear to provide rather weak empirical support for both concepts. Some theoretical resolutions are proposed in an attempt to link the two concepts, such as a continuum of severity. We conclude that practitioners should decide for themselves, according to one’s own theoretical framework and purpose of usage. Nonetheless, as formal psychiatric diagnosis demands more extensive scientific support and bears further implications (such as stigma), the current use of the diagnosis of adjustment disorder may seems less justified.

Keywords:  Crisis, crisis intervention, adjustment disorder, diagnosis, medicalization