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What’s Acute Stress Disorder? Let’s Get To The Bottom Of This!

AnxietyPanda 6

Last updated on November 29, 2019

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We’re on a mission to discover everything we can about Acute Stress Disorder! Feel like accompanying us?

Let’s investigate!

There are many types of stressors in this chaotic world. You may feel as if you are losing a few of your marbles if you have not yet learned how to recognize the symptoms.

There is a myriad of situations and interactions which can lead to many stress responses in your body and mind. You‘re probably not even aware of most. This is where matters turn dangerous. As all of us know, stress is a silent killer…

AnxietyPanda will now take you through the details of a specific stress disorder named Acute Stress Disorder, also identified as Acute Stress Reaction.

What’s Acute Stress Disorder? Let’s have a peek!

Stress can be fatal and brought on by a plethora of reasons.

You will experience Acute Stress Disorder, specifically, after experiencing a severe traumatic situation.

These include:

* Witnessing the death of someone

* Experiencing a natural disaster

* Being in a major motor accident

* Any form of abuse

These are a few examples from a lengthy list of possible traumatic situations that may take place during your life.

They diagnose it once you have displayed the specific stress reactions for over 3 days and up to 1 month of the event taking place.

If the symptoms persist for over one month, the diagnosis results as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (P.T.S.D).

In short – Acute Stress Disorder sometimes precedes P.T.S.D and if not treated or dealt with, it may progress into P.T.S.D.

What are the signs and symptoms?

For a physician to diagnose this stress disorder, you must display at least three of the following acute stress disorder symptoms:

–> Dissociative symptoms

–> Recurring thoughts or dreams concerning the traumatic experience

–> Feelings of tremendous anxiety and distress

–> Avoidance

You will definitely experience some dissociative symptoms.

The presence of dissociative symptoms is another factor that differentiates acute stress disorder from a post-traumatic stress disorder.

When you experience dissociative symptoms it may feel as if you’re living in a dream, or as if you’re seeing yourself and your surroundings from the outside.

Your emotions don’t feel real or like your own.

Most times, you may also experience dissociative amnesia.

This causes you to not recall one or more specific aspects of the traumatic incident that took place.

Besides dissociative symptoms, you may have recurring dreams, thoughts or emotions about the traumatic event causing you to feel as if you are reliving the awful event

You could also experience heightened anxiety and distress which will lead to:

* Trouble sleeping

* Difficulty concentrating

* Physical symptoms such as trembling or sweaty palms

* Be tensed up and on your guard at all times.

You will occasionally feel irritable and lash out at people for no reason.

All these symptoms may also cause you to avoid situations that will cause you to re-experience or relive the traumatic event.

You might avoid:

* The people you identify with it

* Being in places similar to the place where the event was experienced

* Certain activities you were perhaps busy with when the event took place

How is this disorder diagnosed and treated?

Whatever you do, please don’t self-diagnose. There are many overlapping conditions with similar symptoms, and if you treat yourself for the wrong condition, you may end up making things worse.

Seek a diagnosis from your doctor or psychiatric health specialist if you suspect that you may be suffering from Acute stress disorder.

They are qualified and equipped to offer you an accurate diagnosis.

Think about it! You may suffer from a different type of stress and this could lead to incorrect treatment.

Okay, so they will ask you an assortment of questions about the circumstances and incidents around the traumatic event and also on the symptoms you are experiencing.

Further questions may be asked to rule out any other causes for the stress.

Here are examples of questions they may ask you:

  • Are you distressed because you have experienced or witnessed a life-threatening event that caused you intense fear?
  • Do you have problems sleeping?
  • In the last year, has a substance abuse caused failure to fulfill any of your responsibilities?

Again, these are only example questions.

The list is extensive and will differ depending on each individual.

After the psychiatric assessment, your doctor may choose one or more of the following treatments:

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy – Applying this method of therapy will unquestionably enhance your recovery speed and will also assure that the disorder doesn’t continue into the PTSD development stage.

Exposure-based therapies – These include In Vivo and Interoceptive Exposure.

These methods of therapies will help you deal with your worries in a controlled and therapeutic atmosphere and will eventually lead to them becoming less severe and less stress-inducing.

Patient Education – Your doctor may choose to also educate you about your condition, the disorder and what is taking place in your head and body.

Education about the condition will lead to you having a better sense of what is transpiring and will heighten your chances of recovery.

You fear something more when you don’t understand it, right?

Medications – These include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s), benzodiazepines, hydrocortisone, propranolol, and even morphine.

AnxietyPanda does not encourage the use of medication and always recommend it as a last resort, but, it is essential for you to listen to your health care specialist’s recommendation.

Be certain to ask them for alternative treatment, should they not have suggested it to you before.

PTSD vs Acute Stress Disorder

The two are essentially the same disorder with both occurring as a response to a significant traumatic event or encounter.

The primary differences come in with the duration of each and the timing of the onset of each.

AnxietyPanda has highlighted a few differences for you:


The most important point to remember here is:

Although most of the time the two disorders occur in sequence following a traumatic event, it does not mean that ASD will lead to PTSD in all cases.

Both can be experienced independently and without the presence of the other.

Mission Accomplished!

Thanks for joining AnxietyPanda on this mission to discover what Acute Stress Disorder is!

Leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

If you enjoyed this article, please also share with your friends on social media and sign up to our newsletter if you never wish to miss another mission! 😉

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  1. Michel Michel

    I didn’t realize there was so much information on stress disorders and also didn’t realize there were different levels of stress disorders. 

    It was interesting to learn that acute stress disorder was followed by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as I always thought that they were two different things altogether. 

    Thank you for enlightening us all on this topic.

  2. Noke Noke


    I’m glad your covered the difference between PTSD and ASD, one could lead to the other but PTSD being more severe and chronic and not as easy to treat. I had no idea. I thought they were basically the same.

    Often wondered if I had PTSD from many traumatic childhood experience, and sort of ignored some of the symptoms listed for ASD. Not even close to anything in comparison, I’m pretty sure I,m suffering from normal stress and just need to take a break, and a breath of fresh air. 

    Glad this information covers some of the possible symptoms and awareness and what to look for giving me less to worry about, lol,  preventing less stress. 

    It’s so good that you provide this sort of information for people that need awareness or something more acute and may need to seek treatment, instead of ignore it and progressively could get worse.

    I wondering if so many people in my life that suffer from depression could of been prevented if they had this information and was preemptive with treatment and/or or therapy to prevent something that became more degenerative if ignored.

    Thank you,


  3. Jag Randa Jag Randa

    My children just experienced acute stress disorder via the death of their uncle. Coming from a counseling background, as soon as I noticed what was going on with them, we started talking about ways to grieve and deal with the aftermath effect.

    It’s great that you are bringing this to the forefront as so many people don’t realize the longer their stress lasts, the more chances they increase of getting PTSD disorder. 

    PTSD leads to long-term severe issues. ASD should be dealt with right away instead of letting it fester. Great article.

  4. Lady Esther Lady Esther


    First, I want to thank you for this very interesting article. I had heard about PTSD but not about ASD. Matter of fact the only time I have heard about PTSD was when I worked with veterans several years ago. I really did not understand much of it PTSD, even though I have a niece that sever in the military in Iraq. To my understanding she has PTSD and received treatment and has a military disability.

    It great to know that medical treatment is available and that each can be treated differently and that it does not necessarily mean that one follows the other.  

    I think we all experience traumatic experiences at one time or another but, it the intensity of the event that may cause ASD and maybe later PTSD if not treated correctly. 

    Wow, a subject that I would prefer leave to the experts. I like the idea and hope that all experts ( doctors, therapists and any staff related to mental health) would want to educate the individual with the health issue. I believe that education brings: understanding, less fear for the subject and better treatment in the home environment and at the facility.

    Your article and your website touches on subjects that our society need to hear about, learn about, be educated and learn that with the proper treatment life certainly continue in a positive environment.

    Thank you for sharing, I have save your website to visit and learn more.

    Very best,


  5. Todd Matthews Todd Matthews

    Excellent article. I know a lot of people who have been diagnosed with each of the two disorders. Many of times, this has happened to those involved after being deployed overseas and experiencing something extreme as you mentioned. I like how you outlined symptoms plus provided a multitude of treatment options. Informative throughout the entire scope of the article. Thank you for sharing. 

  6. Kuu Kuu

    That was very informative post. Before I read your post, I never knew what Acute Stress Disorder was. However, after reading it, it has open my eyes to a whole new world about stress and how it have an impact on our health. It’s seems that this acute stress disorder can get very serious if you don’t let a practitioner treat it. But overall it’s seems true education on this disorder is very important because it helps you to spot the symptoms as soon as possible. Thanks very much for this post. 

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