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Fraser-Kirk and Adjustment Disorders

Fraser-Kirk and Adjustment DisordersIn Australia, David Jones’ publicist Kristy Fraser-Kirk is suing the company she works for and its former CEO Mark McInnes for sexual harassment. David Jones is sort of like Macy’s, except it’s based in Australia.

According to news reports, Ms. Fraser-Kirk, 27, is suing David Jones, Mark McInnes and nine directors of the company. She is seeking compensation for a number of different claims, including breach of contract, as well as punitive damages of $37 million. Not exactly chump change. But then again, maybe that’s what it takes to send a clear message about how sexual harassment will not be tolerated in the modern workplace.

But due to the publicity surrounding the case in Australia, she’s now making a new novel claim — that the publicity has led to an “adjustment disorder.” So what is an adjustment disorder? How might it impact Fraser-Kirk’s case??

An adjustment disorder is simply the clinical label given to a mental health concern that is so new in an individual that it doesn’t quite rise to the level of a full-blown mental disorder like depression or generalized anxiety.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition defines an adjustment disorder as:

The essential feature of an Adjustment Disorder is the development of clinically significant emotional or behavioral symptoms in response to an identifiable psychosocial stressor or stressors. The symptoms must develop within 3 months after the onset of the stressor(s).

The clinical significance of the reaction is indicated either by marked distress that is in excess of what would be expected given the nature of the stressor, or by significant impairment in social or occupational (academic) functioning. [However, it cannot be diagnosed when the symptoms represent bereavement. …]

By definition, an Adjustment Disorder must resolve within 6 months of the termination of the stressor (or its consequences). However, the symptoms may persist for a prolonged period (i.e., longer than 6 months) if they occur in response to a chronic stressor (e.g., a chronic, disabling general medical condition) or to a stressor that has enduring consequences (e.g., the financial and emotional difficulties resulting from a divorce).

The stressor may be a single event (e.g., termination of a romantic relationship), or there may be multiple stressors (e.g., marked business difficulties and marital problems).

Stressors may be recurrent (e.g., associated with seasonal business crises) or continuous (e.g., living in a crime-ridden neighborhood). Stressors may affect a single individual, an entire family, or a larger group or community (e.g., as in a natural disaster).

Adjustment disorders typically carry a specifier that defines what kind of adjustment disorder it is (e.g., depressive for depressed mood).

While adjustment disorders are not widely recognized throughout the world or in all cultures, an adjustment disorder is indeed considered a psychiatric illness (at least here in the U.S.). It would not be unthinkable that unexpected and prolonged media exposure due to a court case could indeed induce such a disorder.

How might this development affect the Fraser-Kirk case? Likely, not much at all. Ms. Fraser-Kirk could seek out treatment for an adjustment disorder, but it typically involves once-weekly psychotherapy. Indeed, such psychotherapy treatment might be helpful in just learning to deal with all the stress and pressure that this court case likely involves. It might also be helpful for learning more successful strategies for dealing with the media (as could a media consultant).

Read the full article: Fraser-Kirk allegedly ‘has psychiatric illness’, court told

Fraser-Kirk and Adjustment Disorders

John M. Grohol, Psy.D.

Dr. John Grohol is the founder of Psych Central. He is a psychologist, author, researcher, and expert in mental health online, and has been writing about online behavior, mental health and psychology issues since 1995. Dr. Grohol has a Master's degree and doctorate in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Grohol sits on the editorial board of the journal Computers in Human Behavior and is a founding board member of the Society for Participatory Medicine. You can learn more about Dr. John Grohol here.

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APA Reference
Grohol, J. (2018). Fraser-Kirk and Adjustment Disorders. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
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Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 29 Sep 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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