Acute Stress Disorder vs. PTSD: Differences And Similarities

According to the American Psychological Association, almost 50% of Americans experience stress regularly. Acute stress disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are the two most common stress disorders. 

There is a lot of doubt regarding these two disorders. People are often confused about whether these two are similar or different. Well, the answer is a little bit of both. Acute stress disorder and PTSD share several similarities and differences. Let us deduce acute stress disorder vs. PTSD along with their similarities. 

Acute Stress Disorder and PTSD

Similarities Between Acute Stress Disorder And PTSD

1. Point of Origin

There is no apparent reason why some people develop stress disorders, and others don’t. That being said, both acute stress disorder and PTSD arise due to trauma. The causes of PTSD are similar to those of acute stress disorder. Traumatic life events like natural disasters, physical violence, assault, and others are the reasons behind both.

Additionally, other factors might also work as causes of these stress disorders. These include:

  • co-occurring mental health issues,
  • substance abuse, and
  • previous history of trauma.

2. Symptoms:

Acute stress disorder and PTSD have similar symptoms. These include:

  • intrusion: repetitive thoughts or flashbacks about the traumatic event,
  • avoidance: trying to avoid the memories of the trauma,
  • arousal: being easily distracted and having sleep problems or hyperalertness, and
  • negative mood: unable to feel genuine happiness.

Read more: Difference Between Stress And Anxiety

Acute Stress Disorder Vs. PTSD – Differences

1. Duration of symptoms:

The duration of symptoms for acute stress disorder ranges from a minimum of three days to a maximum of four weeks. The symptoms of PTSD need to last for at least a month in order for them to be correctly diagnosed. Additionally, PTSD symptoms can exist for years.

2. Treatment Options:

Treatment options differ between acute stress disorder and PTSD.

In the initial days of the trauma, a healthcare professional can provide the required support in case of acute stress disorder. For the following days, one can receive the following treatments:

  • trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy: this type of talk therapy helps cope with and manage the symptoms of trauma.
  • medications: there exist no specific medicines for acute stress disorder. However, your doctor might prescribe anti-anxiety or antidepressant medications to help with your symptoms.

Disclaimer: The above-suggested medications should only be used after proper diagnosis and discussion with professionals. Unregulated use can be life-threatening.

Psychotherapy and different types of medications are used as treatment options for PTSD. These include:

  • cognitive behavioral therapy: this type of therapy focuses on reframing and restructuring the patient’s pattern of thoughts and behaviors.
  • group therapy: this form of therapy brings several individuals with PTSD together to share their feelings in a safe environment.

Read more: Asperger’s vs. ADHD


We hope you can finally deduce acute stress disorder vs. PTSD as well as understand their similarities. Knowing the difference between mental health conditions is important to create an environment of awareness. It helps people going through them and their loved ones recognize the signs and symptoms early on and seek proper help. Early detection and treatment are the keys to recovery from mental health issues.

Now that you know acute stress disorder vs. PTSD, let us take you to the differences between two other mental illnesses. To know more about the difference between Schizophrenia and Schizoaffective disorder, click here.

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