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What is acute stress disorder, and do you have it?

 In Addiction

Acute stress disorder is characterized as the symptoms of a traumatic event, whereas PTSD is the accumulation of long-term symptoms that arise from a traumatic event. Some situations that may cause acute stress disorder include rape, an accident, natural disaster, and war. Common co-occurring mental illnesses include post-traumatic stress disorders, dissociative amnesia, and anxiety disorder. 

Causes of acute stress disorder

When an individual experiences something life-threatening or witnesses something life-threatening, it can become traumatic for the person causing acute stress disorder and even PTSD. Acute stress disorder symptoms include negative moods, intrusive symptoms, low mood, sleep disturbances, and increased arousal.  


  • Flashbacks 
  • Nightmares 
  • Anxiety
  • Poor sleep 
  • Bad concentration 
  • Nightmares regarding event
  • Helplessness
  • Dissociation 

It is not always possible to avoid experiencing traumatic events. However, there are ways to reduce the risk of developing ASD afterward. These can include:

  • consulting a doctor or mental health professional following a traumatic event
  • seeking support from family and friends
  • getting treatment for other mental health disorders
  • working with a behavioral coach to develop effective coping mechanisms
  • getting preparation training if a person’s job involves a high risk of exposure to traumatic events

Treatment for ASD 

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT for short, is used to help rewire negative patterns in the brain and turn those into positive ones. 
  • Medications such as antidepressants may be prescribed for people with acute stress disorder. 
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing, or EMDR for short, is a therapy Dr. Shapiro invented that focuses on eye movements during traumatic events. The treatment has successfully helped many people’s brains cope with the traumatic event and let it go. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with acute stress disorder, please contact a medical professional today who may offer you inpatient or outpatient therapy to help heal the trauma. This disorder can get in the way of everyday living, so please contact a mental health professional for more information. 

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