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What is found in Acute stress disorder (ASD)?


Acute stress disorder occurs in individuals without any other psychiatric disorder, in response to exceptional physical and/or psychological stress. While severe, such a reaction usually subsides within hours or days. The stress may be an overwhelming traumatic experience (e.g. accident, battle, physical assault, rape) or a sudden change in the social circumstances of the individual, such as a bereavement. Individual vulnerability and coping capacity play a role in the occurrence and severity of an acute stress reaction, as evidenced by the fact that not all people exposed to exceptional stress develop symptoms. Symptoms usually include an initial state of feeling 'dazed' or numb, with inability to comprehend the situation. This state may be followed either by further withdrawal from the situation or by anxiety and overactivity. Autonomic signs of arousal, including tachycardia, sweating and hyperventilation, are commonly present. The symptoms usually appear within minutes of the stressor and disappear within 2-3 days.

Acute stress disorder is a result of a traumatic event in which the person experienced or witnessed an event that involved threatened or actual serious injury or death and responded with intense fear and helplessness.

Acute Stress Disorder, or ASD, is a psychiatric diagnosis that was introduced into the DSM-IV in 1994. The current diagnostic criteria for ASD are similar to the criteria for PTSD, although the criteria for ASD contain a greater emphasis on dissociative symptoms and the diagnosis can only be given within the first month after a traumatic event.

What is it about?

To understand the signs of acute stress disorder it will help to know what this condition is first. Acute stress disorder is a condition where a person begins to experience anxiety symptoms and begins to relive certain events from one’s past. It can also involve a person trying to avoid certain stimuli that can relate to a particular event.

It can involve a traumatic event

A condition like this is something that can be caused by a traumatic event in one’s past. This can be something that involved a great deal of fear or a negative long lasting effect that has scarred a person for life.

A lack of responsiveness can be found

In most cases acute stress disorder will involve a person feeling uncomfortable and unable to be responsive. A person will feel detached from different things and unwilling to go ahead with suggestions from other people.

A lack of awareness is also common

In most cases a person will be so deep into thinking about a past event that the person will end up feeling stuck in an arrested period of thought where one is not going to be fully aware of what is going on around one’s area. This is a tough thing to deal with because it can involve a person being unable to concentrate on different activities and things that one should be doing.

Irritability may also occur

People with this condition are more likely to become irritated by different things. This is especially the case when a person gets in contact with some kind of acute stress disorder trigger that relates to a past event in one’s life. The effect that a person can have with this stimuli can be something dangerous for a person to deal with and should be avoided if possible.

Causes of Acute Stress Disorde

Acute stress disorder is caused by exposure to trauma, which is defined as a stressor that causes intense fear and, usually, involves threats to life or serious injury to oneself or others. Examples are rape, mugging, combat, natural disasters, etc.

Acute Stress Disorder Snapshot

Symptoms of Acute Stress Disorders

Symptoms include dissociative symptoms such as

  • numbing, detachment, a reduction in awareness of the surroundings, derealization, or depersonalization;
  • re-experiencing of the trauma,
  • Trouble experiencing pleasure
  • A sense of not being real
  • avoidance of associated stimuli, and
  • significant anxiety, including irritability, poor concentration, difficulty sleeping, and restlessness.

Difference between ASD and PTSD

Diagnostic criteria for Acute Stress Disorder 

Diagnosis of acute stress disorder is based on a combination of the patient's history and a physical examination to rule out diseases that can cause anxiety.

  • The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in at least one of the following ways: recurrent images, thoughts, dreams, illusions, flashback episodes, or a sense of reliving the experience; or distress on exposure to reminders of the traumatic event.
  • Marked avoidance of stimuli that arouse recollections of the trauma.
  • Marked symptoms of anxiety or increased arousal.
  • The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning or impairs the individual's ability to pursue some necessary task, such as obtaining necessary assistance or mobilizing personal resources by telling family members about the traumatic experience.
  • The disturbance lasts for a minimum of 2 days and a maximum of 4 weeks and occurs within 4 weeks of the traumatic event.
  • The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance or a general medical condition, is not better accounted for by Brief Psychotic Disorder, and is not merely an exacerbation of a preexisting Axis I or Axis II disorder.

Treatment of Acute Stress Disorder

The individual with acute stress disorder often will not seek treatment because their ability to mobilize and perform necessary tasks is affected. The severity of the disorder may be reduced if professional intervention is initiated soon after the trauma. Treatment for acute stress disorder usually includes a combination of antidepressant medications and short-term psychotherapy.

Also see - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Useful Terms:

Depersonalization A dissociative symptom in which the patient feels that his or her body is unreal, is changing, or is dissolving.

Derealization A dissociative symptom in which the external environment is perceived as unreal.

Dissociation A reaction to trauma in which the mind splits off certain aspects of the trauma from conscious awareness. Dissociation can affect the patient's memory, sense of reality, and sense of identity.

Trauma In the context of ASD, a disastrous or life-threatening event.

Facts and Tips about Acute Stress Disorder

  • Acute stress disorder is a kind of diagnostic category which was started in 1994 to differ the reactions for trauma which are time dependent and reactions from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Acute Stress Disorder begins with contact with an extremely traumatic, horrifying, or terrifying event.
  • Acute Stress Disorder is the immediate reaction to trauma and if not treated, it could develop into Post traumatic stress disorder(PTSD).
  • Some dissociative symptoms of ASD include derealization, reduction in awareness of vicinity, psychic numbing, depersonalization and somtimes dissociative amnesia.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most successful treatment to combat ASD.
  • Clonidine, propanolol, clonazepam and fluoxetine are some medications used to treat the individual symptoms.

hi i want to thank you for the information which i have just read it is very intrestingas i know of some one who has PTSD.i did not know to much about it and i did not know about ASD, at all till now --- steve

Sometimes crying or laughing
are the only options left,
and laughing feels better right now.

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