Acute Stress Disorder – What is it, Symptoms and Treatments!

Acute Stress Disorder – What it is, Symptoms and Treatments  of this condition. Acute Stress Disorder is an acute stress reaction that occurs when symptoms develop due to a particularly stressful event. It is similar to post-traumatic stress disorder , however, it begins within four weeks of the traumatic event and lasts for only two days to four weeks.

People with Acute Stress Disorder have been exposed to a frightening event. People mentally relive the traumatic incident, avoid things that might remind them of the event, and feel increasing anxiety . They also have three or more of the following symptoms (called dissociative symptoms):

  • Feeling numb, withdrawn, or lacking emotional responses
  • Decreased perception of the environment (e.g. stun)
  • Feeling that things are not real
  • Feeling that things are out of place and not real
  • Inability to recall a key part of a traumatic event

The number of people with Acute Stress Disorder is uncertain. The likelihood of developing Acute Stress Disorder increases in proportion to the severity of the traumatic events.

Causes of Acute Stress Disorder: Experiencing, witnessing or being confronted with one or more traumatic events can cause Acute Stress Disorder . Events create intense fear, horror or helplessness. Traumatic events that can cause Acute Stress Disorder include:

  • Death;
  • A threat to kill yourself or others;
  • A threat of serious harm to yourself or others;
  • A threat to the physical integrity of oneself or others.

Approximately 6 to 33 percent of people who experience a traumatic event have developed Acute Stress Disorder . This rate varies according to the nature of the traumatic situation.

Risk Factors for Acute Stress Disorder: Anyone can develop Acute Stress Disorder after a traumatic event. You may be at an increased risk of developing Acute Stress Disorder if you have:

  • Experienced, witnessed or faced a traumatic event in the past;
  • A history of Acute Stress Disorder ;
  • A history of certain types of mental problems;
  • A history of dissociative symptoms during traumatic events.

Symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder: Symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder include:

Dissociative Symptoms: You will have three or more of the following dissociative symptoms if you have Acute Stress Disorder :

  • Feeling numb, detached, or being emotionally insensitive
  • 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 feel real or don’t feel like they belong to you
  • Dissociative amnesia , which occurs when you cannot remember one or more important aspects of the traumatic event.

Re-Experiencing the Traumatic Event: You will persistently re-experience the traumatic event in one or more of the following ways if you have Acute Stress Disorder :

  • Having recurring images, thoughts, nightmares, illusions, or flashback episodes of the traumatic event;
  • Feeling that you are reliving the traumatic event;
  • Feeling distressed when something reminds you of the traumatic event.

Avoidance: You can avoid stimuli that cause you to remember or recreate the traumatic event, such as:

  • People
  • conversations
  • locations
  • objects
  • Activities
  • Thoughts
  • Feelings
  • anxiety or increased arousal

Symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder can include anxiety and increased arousal. Symptoms of anxiety and increased arousal include:

  • Having trouble sleeping ;
  • be irritable;
  • Having difficulty concentrating;
  • Being unable to stop moving or being still;
  • Being constantly tense or on guard;
  • Being startled too easily or at inappropriate times.

Diagnoses of Acute Stress Disorder: Your doctor or mental health professional will diagnose Acute Stress Disorder by asking you questions about the traumatic event and its symptoms. It is also important to exclude other causes, such as:

  • Drug abuse;
  • medication side effects;
  • Health problems;
  • Other psychiatric disorders.

Treatments for Acute Stress Disorder: Your doctor may use one or more of the following methods to treat Acute Stress Disorder :

  • A psychiatric evaluation to determine your specific needs;
  • Hospitalization if you are at risk of suicide or harming others;
  • Assistance in obtaining shelter, food, clothing and family location, if necessary;
  • Psychiatric education to teach you about your disorder;
  • Medication to relieve the symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder , such as anti- anxiety medications , selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and antidepressants
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, which can increase the speed of recovery, prevents Acute Stress Disorder from getting worse;
  • Exposure-based therapies;
  • Hypnotherapy.

Preventing Acute Stress Disorder: Because there is no way to guarantee that you will never experience a traumatic situation, there is no way to prevent Acute Stress Disorder . However, there are things that can be done to reduce your likelihood of developing Acute Stress Disorder . Getting medical treatment within a few hours of experiencing a traumatic event can reduce the likelihood that you will develop Acute Stress Disorder .

Useful links: 

People who work in jobs that are at high risk for traumatic events, such as military personnel, may benefit from training and counseling to reduce their risk of developing Acute Stress Disorder if a traumatic event occurs. Preparedness training and counseling may involve false promises of traumatic events and counseling to strengthen coping mechanisms.

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