Acute Stress Disorder OMG STRESSED OUT

Written by an iTherapy Provider

Acute Stress Disorder OMG STRESSED OUT


Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) is a caused by traumatic stress and lasts at least 3 days to 1-month.

The DSM-5 manual states that stressful events which do not include severe and traumatic components do not lead to Acute Stress Disorder . Acute Stress Disorder develops after exposure to one or more traumatic events, e.g., exposure to war (both civilians and military personnel), rape or sexual violence, physical attack, mugging, childhood physical or sexual violence, kidnapping or being taken hostage, terrorist attacks, torture, nature disasters and severe accidents. There are many other causes of trauma.

Note: The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) refers to Acute Stress Reaction (ASR) which is slightly different and results from an “exceptionally stressful life event” or “continuous trauma”, and typically lasts between a few hours and a few days. Both Acute Stress Disorder and Acute Stress Reaction have symptoms which are similar to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Acute stress disorder (ASD) is a mental disorder that can occur in the first month following a trauma. The symptoms that define ASD overlap with those for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

One difference, though, is that a PTSD diagnosis cannot be given until symptoms have lasted for one month. Also, compared to PTSD, ASD is more likely to involve feelings such as not knowing where you are, or feeling as if you are outside of your body.

How common is Acute Stress Disorder?
Studies of ASD vary in terms of the tests used and the rates of ASD found. Overall, within one month of a trauma, survivors show rates of ASD ranging from 6% to 33%. Rates differ for different types of trauma. For example, survivors of accidents or disasters such as hurricanes and typhoons show lower rates of ASD.

Survivors of violence such as robbery, assaults, and mass shootings show rates at the clinically significant higher end of that range 90% or greater.

Who is at risk for ASD as a result of trauma?
Several factors can place you at higher risk for developing ASD after a trauma:
• History of prior traumatic events
• Having had PTSD in the past
• History of prior mental health problems
• Tending to have symptoms, such as not knowing who or where you are, when confronted with trauma

Does Acute Stress Disorder predict Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?
If you have ASD, you are very likely to get PTSD. Research has found that over 80% of people with ASD have PTSD six months later. However, not everyone with ASD will get PTSD.

Also, those who do not immediately present with ASD can still develop PTSD later on. Studies indicate that a small number (4% to 13%) of survivors who do not get ASD in the first month after a trauma will get PTSD in later months or years.

Are there effective treatments for Acute Stress Disorder?
Yes, there are many types of treatment. I tailor treatments to the patient’s emotional presentation, unique personality, coping style, and his/her personal history;  and base treatments on best practices of evidence-based scientific studies.

One of the many treatments is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) that have been scientifically proven to have positive results. Research shows that survivors who get CBT and CPT soon after going through a trauma are less likely to get PTSD symptoms later.

Getting the Best Treatment is from a Trauma Expert
A Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a PhD who is experienced and trained in treatment for trauma can judge whether CBT and CPT may be useful for a trauma survivor. There are also many other treatments available reach out and ask me about them, if you are interested.

When seeking a psychotherapist ask a lot of questions to make sure you are getting someone highly qualified in Trauma work.

You do not want a mental health counselor who is flying by the seat of their pants.  Reach out to me if you need assistance, even if we do not work together, I can guide you in choosing the best Trauma Expert for you. I have seen way too many cases when a patient has shown up to see me with poor past treatment in which the prior therapist or counselor made the patient worse. It is called the Iatrogenic effect.

IMPORTANT:  Another treatment called psychological debriefing (PD) has sometimes been used in the wake of a traumatic event. However, there is very little scientific research to back its use for effectively treating ASD or PTSD. It should also be noted that with more severe trauma or reactions such as PTSD, debriefing is Not recommended.

Common Reactions to Trauma:
Mental Health Reactions after Disaster:
Neurobiology of Stress, Anxiety, Fear, Panic, Trauma:
I have Experienced Trauma. Do I have PTSD ?


If you have any questions, concerns, comments, please reach out to me. I am here for you for FREE consultation. On my website Contact page, you will find a Code for FREE 15-minute consultation. I have specialized in the assessment and treatment of Trauma and related mental health presentations for more than 20-years: Single Event Trauma, Repeat Event Trauma, Adjustment Disorder, Acute Stress Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Battered Women’s Syndrome, Complicated Traumatic emotional and physical stress due to  Narcissistic Personality Disorder Victimization. I also specialize in depression, anxiety, agoraphobia, phobias. Plus + I am a Brain-Mind Nerd : ) ask me anything about the Brain and the Mind.  I have 20+ years in the assessment and treatment of other presentations too: such as Depression, Anxiety, Phobia/Agoraphobia. Please see my website for my credentials, expertise, and extensive training and certificates.

With Love and Light,
Shawna M. Freshwater, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist, NeuroPsychologist, and Holistic Healer.

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