Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Acute Stress Disorder: What Is It and What You Can Do About It

English: Symptoms of Stress
Symptoms of Stress (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
by Catherine Quel

Acute Stress Disorder is a reaction to a traumatic event.

It is similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and has some of the same criteria for diagnosis.

An individual with Acute Stress Disorder experiences high rates of anxiety and often may have dissociative episodes.

The symptoms display themselves within a month of a traumatic stressor such as witnessing or experiencing a violent act.

Those with this disorder have a difficult time enjoying activities in which they previously took pleasure. They often have trouble processing emotions and may appear apathetic much of the time. Often guilt is associated with any happy or pleasant activities or emotions.

People suffering from Acute Stress Disorder have a sense of detachment both from their own bodies and the world around them. Often, they feel as though they are in a dream or alternate reality.

They may have difficulties with concentration, even with the simplest of tasks. Dissociative amnesia is not uncommon and is characterized by an inability to remember the traumatic event itself.

For diagnosis, the individual must experience some of the same symptoms represented in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder criteria.

The first requirement is that the person re-experiences the event on some level. This can be in flashbacks, disturbing thoughts or dreams, or agitation when events around them trigger reminders of the traumatic event.

Another criteria is that the person avoids things that might remind them of the trauma. This can include particular people and places as well as activities that they associate with the person or situation of trauma.

The third group of symptoms that indicate Acute Stress Disorder is that the person experiences hyperarousal. This is a response to anything that reminds them of the event and may include being easily startled, troubles with sleeping, an inability to concentrate or generalized restlessness.

Those who suffer from Acute Stress Disorder re-experience the event through mental images, recurring thoughts, flashbacks and a continual feeling of being on edge. Often, seemingly normal things can trigger distress if the object or situation reminds the person of the traumatic event.

In order to reduce stress levels, people with ASD will often attempt to avoid anything that reminds them of the situation. This isolation from normal activities can increase stress however.

As anxiety grows, the person may become hyper-vigilant and have greater difficulty performing routine tasks such as conversations and household chores.

A diagnosis of ASD must include several of these symptoms being clinically noted and that the person has impairment in one or more areas of life, including social or occupational.

Often, family and friends who are familiar with the individual can help to note the differences in behavior before and after the traumatic event.

For proper diagnosis, the person must have the symptoms for more than a couple of days. Additionally, the clinician must make certain that alcohol or drugs are not the cause behind the symptoms being displayed.

The clinician also must ensure that the diagnosis of Brief Psychotic Disorder is not a more appropriate diagnosis.

What is Acute Stress Disorder and what you can do if you have it. Go to my website and download my free report.

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