Is Acute Stress Disorder?
In the weeks after a traumatic event, you
may develop an anxiety disorder called acute stress disorder (ASD). ASD
typically occurs within one month of a traumatic event. It lasts at least three
days and can persist for up to one month. People with ASD have symptoms similar
to those seen in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Causes Acute Stress Disorder?
Experiencing, witnessing, or being
confronted with one or more traumatic events can cause ASD. The events create
intense fear, horror, or helplessness. Traumatic events that can cause ASD
- a threat of death to oneself or others
- a threat of serious injury to oneself or others
- a threat to the physical integrity of oneself or
Approximately 6 to 33
percent of people who experience a traumatic event develop ASD. This rate varies
based on the nature of the traumatic situation.
Is at Risk for Acute Stress Disorder?
Anyone can develop ASD after a traumatic
event. You may have an increased risk of developing ASD if you have:
- experienced, witnessed, or been confronted with
a traumatic event in the past
- a history of ASD or PTSD
- a history of certain types of mental problems
- a history of dissociative symptoms during
Are the Symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder?
The symptoms of ASD include:
You’ll have three or more of the
following dissociative symptoms if you have ASD:
- feeling numb, detached, or being emotionally
- a reduced awareness of your surroundings
- derealization, which occurs when your
environment seems strange or unreal to you
- depersonalization, which occurs when your thoughts
or emotions don’t seem real or don’t seem like they belong to you
- dissociative amnesia, which occurs when you
cannot remember one or more important aspects of the traumatic event
Reexperiencing the Traumatic Event
You’ll persistently reexperience the
traumatic event in one or more of the following ways if you have ASD:
- having recurring images, thoughts, nightmares,
illusions, or flashback episodes of the traumatic event
- feeling like you’re reliving the traumatic event
- feeling distressed when something reminds you of
the traumatic event
You may avoid stimuli that cause you to
remember or reexperience the traumatic event, such as:
Anxiety or Increased Arousal
The symptoms of ASD may include anxiety
and increased arousal. The symptoms of anxiety and increased arousal include:
- having trouble sleeping
- being irritable
- having difficulty concentrating
- being unable to stop moving or sit still
- being constantly tense or on guard
- becoming startled too easily or at inappropriate
The symptoms of ASD may cause you
distress or disrupt important aspects of your life, such as your social or work
settings. You may have an inability to start or complete necessary tasks or an inability
to tell others about the traumatic event.
Is Acute Stress Disorder Diagnosed?
Your primary care doctor or mental
healthcare provider will diagnose ASD by asking you questions about the
traumatic event and your symptoms. It’s also important to rule out other causes
- drug abuse
- side effects of medication
- health problems
- other psychiatric disorders
Is Acute Stress Disorder Treated?
Your doctor may use one or more of the
following methods to treat ASD:
- a psychiatric evaluation to determine your
- hospitalization if you’re at risk of suicide or harming
- assistance in obtaining shelter, food, clothing,
and locating family, if necessary
- psychiatric education to teach you about your
- medication to relieve symptoms of ASD, such as
anti-anxiety medications, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), and
- cognitive behavioral therapy, which may increase
recovery speed prevent ASD from turning into PTSD
- exposure-based therapies
Is the Long-Term Outlook?
Many people with ASD are later diagnosed
with PTSD. A diagnosis of PTSD is made if your symptoms persist for more than a
month and cause a significant amount of stress and difficulty functioning.
Treatment may reduce your chances of
developing PTSD. Approximately 50
percent of PTSD cases resolve within six months, whereas others may persist
I Prevent ASD?
Because there’s no way to ensure that you
never experience a traumatic situation, there’s no way to prevent ASD. However,
there are things that can be done to reduce your likelihood of developing ASD.
Getting medical treatment within a few
hours of experiencing a traumatic event may reduce the likelihood that you’ll
develop ASD. People who work in jobs that carry a high risk for traumatic
events, such as military personnel, may benefit from preparation training and
counseling to reduce their risk of developing ASD or PSTD if a traumatic event
does occur. Preparation training and counseling may involve fake enactments of
traumatic events and counseling to strengthen coping mechanisms.