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Acute Stress Disorder

Definition

Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) occurs within one month in an individual after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as a death, threat of death, serious injury or physical violation.  ASD is characterized by the development of severe anxiety, fear, helplessness, or horror.  An individual is unable to find pleasure in previously enjoyable activities, and frequently feels guilty about engaging in usual life tasks.

Symptoms

An individual is diagnosed with Acute Stress Disorder if they demonstrate three of the following symptoms while experiencing or after experiencing the traumatic event.  Symptoms must persist for a minimum of 3 days up to 4 weeks within a month of the trauma.

Causes

The immediate cause of ASD is exposure to trauma.  Several factors influence the risk of developing Acute Stress Disorder after a trauma:

Treatments

Therapy for Acute Stress Disorder requires several types of treatment because it affects several systems of belief and meaning, interpersonal relationships and occupational functioning as well as physical well-being.  Cognitive-behavioral therapy, exposure therapy, and journaling have been found effective.  Medications can be used for individual symptoms such as anxiety, insomnia, and panic reactions.  Immediate crisis intervention after a tragedy or natural disaster may help people avoid developing ASD.