What is Acute Stress Disorder? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment 

We all have been through stressful circumstances in life, and they impact our reactions, responses, and overall perspective. Today, we’ll discuss what is acute stress disorder; its symptoms, causes, and treatment.

What is Acute Stress Disorder? 

The symptoms of acute stress disorder (ASD) are to some extent similar to the symptoms of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). You are likely to develop the anxiety disorder (also goes by the name acute stress disorder) a few weeks after the traumatic event. Its symptoms could persist from three days to a month.

ASD could impact anyone right after the traumatic event. You’re more vulnerable to ASD if you have got the following;

  • Dissociative symptoms history during the phase of the traumatic event
  • Having a history of mental issues of any type
  • History of PTSD or ASD
  • Confronting, witnessing, or experiencing a traumatic event in the past

Symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder 

Some of the main symptoms of ASD in different categories are as follows;

Dissociative Symptoms

If a person has ASD, then the person would exhibit three of the following dissociative symptoms;

  • Dissociative Amnesia: it can happen when the person can’t recall the things (one or more) about the traumatic event
  • Depersonalization: it is when your emotions and thoughts don’t feel real to you, and it makes you feel like they aren’t yours
  • Derealization: it’s the state when the environment in which you’re living doesn’t seem real and feels strange
  • The lower level of awareness of your environment and surrounding
  • Emotionally unresponsive, detached, and feelings numb

Re-Experiencing Traumatic Event

If you have got ASD, then you would re-experience the traumatic event persistently in any of the following ways;

  • Distressed feelings when they remind you of the traumatic memories
  • Makes you feel like you’re reliving and re-experiencing the traumatic event
  • Flashback episodes, illusions, nightmares, thoughts, and recurring images of the traumatic event


Some of the triggering stimuli would make you re-experience and recall the traumatic event and you start avoiding them. They’re as follows;

  • Feelings
  • Thoughts
  • Activities
  • Objects
  • Places
  • Conversations
  • People

Anxiety/High Arousal

Increased arousal and anxiety are the main symptoms of ASD, and they comprise of following;

  • Getting surprised and startled easily at an inappropriate time
  • Defensive and becoming tense constantly
  • Unable to sit still and stop moving
  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating
  • Becoming irritated easily
  • Difficulty in sleeping


The symptoms of ASD would disturb various areas of your life like work and social networks and cause you a lot of distress. It makes you feel incapable to share your feelings about the traumatic event, and unable to complete or start important work and tasks.

Causes of Acute Stress Disorder 

Confronting, witnessing, or experiencing the traumatic event could cause and trigger ASD. The whole event makes you feel helplessness, horror, and intense fear; and some of the main causes are as follows;

  • Threatening situation to the physical integrity of yourself and others
  • Serious injury threat to you or others
  • The threat of dying of you or others
  • Death

According to an estimate by the US Department of Veterans Affairs, roundabout 6-33% of the people that have been through a traumatic event would experience and develop the symptoms of ASD. The statistical figure depends on the nature of the traumatic situations and circumstances.

Diagnosis of Acute Stress Disorder 

Your doctor would diagnose the ASD condition by analyzing various symptoms and inquiring questions about the traumatic event. While conducting the analysis, your doctor would rule out other causes like;

  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Health problems
  • Side effects of drugs and medicines
  • Drug abuse

If you don’t have any doctor or mental health professional in your area, then you should check out online.

Treatment of Acute Stress Disorder 

After diagnosing the acute stress disorder, your doctor would implement any of the following procedures to treat ASD.

  • Hypnotherapy
  • Therapeutic treatment based on exposure
  • CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) amplifies the recovery rate and stops ASD from turning into PTSD
  • Medicines like antidepressants, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), and antianxiety medicines help you to relieve the signs of ASD
  • Psychiatric education material offers you guidance about the disorder
  • Offers assistance in locating family and offering clothes, food, and shelter
  • Hospitalizing if the patient is at the risk of harming others or committing suicide
  • Psychiatric evaluation to find out about your needs

People with ASD condition develop the symptoms of PTSD later. If the symptoms of PTSD prevail for more than a month, then it would cause a lot of stress. A proper treatment plan would decrease the probability of getting PTSD

Conclusion: What is Acute Stress Disorder? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment 

After an in-depth study of what is acute stress disorder; its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, and treatment; we have realized that ASD negatively disturbs your various functions of life. If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms of ASD, then you should consult with the therapist in your area.