Acute Traumatic Stress Disorder

Acute Traumatic Stress Disorder is also referred to as acute stress disorder (ASD). It is an emotional response that is the consequence of experiencing a single dangerous or emotionally threatening event.


Acute Stress Disorder usually occurs in people within 20 to 30 days after they experience a distressing or traumatic event. The event of acute stress disorder causes anxiety and can lead to the development of panic attacks. The length of time the Acute Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms last vary from 3 to 30 days. Studies suggest that 33% of people who go through a distressing event experience acute traumatic stress disorder.

Acute Traumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms

If you have experienced a distressing or traumatic event and have developed three or more of the following acute PTSD symptoms also known as signs and symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder.

A girl is in Acute Traumatic Stress Disorder

Changes in arousal

  • Sleep disturbances such as hypersomnia (increased amount of sleep), or insomnia (decreased amount of sleep).
  • Irritable behavior and angry flare-ups (with little or no provocation), expressed as verbal or physical aggression toward people or objects.
  • Problems with concentration.
  • Exaggerated startle response.
  • Numbness / emotional unresponsiveness.
  • Reduced consciousness of your surroundings.

Disturbance ASD Symptoms

  • Recurrent, unconscious, and intrusive upsetting memories of the traumatic event.
  • Recurrent upsetting nightmares in which the content or consequence of the dream is related to the traumatic event.
  • Dissociative reactions (i.e. nostalgias and flashbacks) in which you might act or feel as if the traumatic event is happening again.
  • Strong or continued emotional suffering or clear physiological responses in reaction to internal or external indications that signify or resemble an aspect of the traumatic event.
  • Inability to stop moving or sitting still
  • Irritability
  • Persistently being tense
  • Constant grieving. 

Negative Mood

  • Persistent failure to experience optimistic emotions.
  • Tantrums
  • Mood swings

Escaping Symptoms

  • Efforts to avoid upsetting memories, feelings, or beliefs about or closely related to the traumatic event.
  • Efforts to avoid outside reminders that arouse upsetting memories, feelings, or thoughts about or closely related to the traumatic event.

Dissociative changes

  • A changed sense of the reality of your environment or yourself.
  • Failure to recall the essential aspects of the traumatic event.
  • Depersonalization, i.e. when your emotions seem unreal.
  • Derealization, i.e. when your surroundings seem strange or imaginary.
  • Constant feeling of detachment even from the things or people you love the most. 

If you are going through a period of acute trauma you will persistently have flashbacks of the event especially when something jogs your memory about the event. You may also experience persistent images, hallucinations, illusions, nightmares or nostalgias of the traumatic event. Any of these can make you feel like you’re experiencing the traumatic event again.

Possible Causes of Acute Stress Disorder

Undergoing, watching, or being provoked by one or more traumatic events can lead to the development of Acute Stress Disorder. In this traumatic event. there are lots of causes of Acute Stress DIsorder that include:

A girl is depressed with Acute Traumatic Stress Disorder
  1. Death of a loved one
  2. Breakup
  3. Threat of serious injury
  4. Black mailing
  5. Natural disasters, such as floods, fires or earthquakes
  6. Receiving a life-threatening diagnosis
  7. Mental, physical, or sexual trauma or torture
  8. Threat to the physical integrity

Acute Traumatic Stress Disorder Diagnosis

Your mental healthcare provider or doctor will diagnose Acute Stress Disorder by asking you questions about the stressful event and your acute PTSD symptoms. It is also important to find out other possible ASD causes like:

  • Health issues
  • Adverse effects of medicines
  • Drug abuse
  • Other psychological disorders

Physical Effects of ASD

  • Palpitations i.e. sudden increase of heartbeat
  • Difficulty in breathing i.e. shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Sweating
  • Stomach pain
  • Headache / Migraine
  • Sickness / Nausea

Acute Stress Disorder Treatment

You are always advised to seek support or medical/mental health treatment if you have increased levels of the acute traumatic stress disorder symptoms given below:

  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Chest pain
  • The extreme level of dependence upon others
  • Higher levels of stress
  • Eating disorders
  • Several Panic attacks during the same day
  • Persistent depression
  • Phobias
  • Behavioral deficits/tantrums
  • Sleep disturbances (for example, night terrors, nightmares, insomnia, hypersomnia)
  • Hyperactivity
  • Significant decline in performance or poor grades
  • Self-injurious behaviors
  • Threats to self or others
  • Suicidal tendency

Available treatments for Acute traumatic Distress Disorder

Your health care provider may use one or more of the following methods to treat ASD:

  • A psychological assessment to find out your current mental situation and particular needs.
  • Psychological awareness about your disorder.
  • Exposure-based therapies to help you get exposed and interacting to your environment and circumstances in the same way, you used to do before having ASD
  • Medication to relieve Acute Stress Disorder symptoms, such as anti-anxiety medicines, anti depressants, Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) which may increase recovery speed and prevent ASD from turning into Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Hospitalization if you’re at having suicidal thoughts or have a potential risk of harming others.