Acute Stress Disorder: Definition, Symptoms, And Causes

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that after enduring a traumatic experience, about 19 percent of people will develop ASD. Although everyone reacts to stressful experiences differently, it is crucial to be aware of the possible physical and psychological side effects that may follow.

Acute stress disorder (ASD) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are closely related. After having ASD, some individuals experience PTSD.

Read More: Is Stress Actually Good For You?

Acute Stress Disorder: What Is It?

You may experience acute stress disorder, a type of anxiety disorder, in the days and weeks following a severe event. A month after a traumatic experience, ASD frequently develops, and it lasts for a minimum of three days and a maximum of one month. ASD patients have symptoms resembling those of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Suppose the symptoms of this condition persist for longer than a month, in that case, it is categorized as post-traumatic stress disorder. This suggests that acute stress disorder may occasionally be seen as a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder. According to The American Institute of Stress, about half of those with ASD are susceptible to PTSD.

ASD and PTSD share many symptoms. The best way to distinguish between them is to pay attention to how long it takes for the symptoms to appear. In contrast to an acute stress disorder, where symptoms may appear three days to a month after the traumatic event, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) takes longer to develop.

Acute Stress Disorder: Symptoms And Signs

ASD may result from having gone through, witnessed, or been exposed to one or more traumatic situations. The experiences bring on extreme terror, horror, or helplessness. Among the traumatic incidents that can result in ASD are:

Intrusion symptoms

These repeatedly happen when a person experiences terrible memories, flashbacks, or dreams. Here are the common types of intrusion symptoms:

  • persistent, unwanted, and annoying memories of the traumatic events,
  • frequently upsetting plans where the event is related to the dream’s content or outcomes,
  • reactions where a person experiences flashbacks and feels like the traumatic events are reoccurring (in extreme cases, people may lose awareness of present surroundings). etc

Dissociation Symptoms

Dissociation is a phrase used to describe the splitting of conscious experience that typically occurs in schizophrenia. Here are common types of dissociation symptoms: 

  • a distorted perception of reality, such as being in a daze or thinking that time is moving more slowly, 
  • dissociative amnesia or the inability to recall an essential detail of the traumatic events, etc.

Avoidance Symptoms

Persons who experience these symptoms deliberately avoid situations, people, or feelings that remind them of the traumatic occurrence. Here are the symptoms: 

  • attempting to block out any unpleasant thoughts, feelings, or memories related to or closely associated with the traumatic events,
  • avoiding anything or anyone that brings up upsetting memories, thoughts, or emotions related to or closely associated with the traumatic event (s), etc.

Read More: Guided Meditation For Stress And Anxiety.

Acute Stress Disorder: Causes

Traumatic incidents that may cause acute stress disorder include some of the following:

  • having seen a shooting,
  • experiencing a car accident,
  • being physically or sexually assaulted,
  • observing a loved one die unexpectedly or a stranger die ferociously,
  • experiencing a close call with death,
  • experiencing a natural disaster, etc.

According to the National Centre Of Biotechnological Information (NCBI), people who survive car accidents are almost 60% more likely to experience acute stress disorder. Acute stress disorder is also more likely to develop in some people due to specific risk factors.

These risk factors include: 


ASD is a transient condition. This implies that your symptoms may start to lessen with the appropriate care. To prevent your signs from getting worse, it is advised to get treatment as soon as you notice any signs of the condition.

We write a lot about mental health and its disorders. Just like in this blog, we have written about Acute Stress Disorder, but this question might also arise in your mind, are mental health issues on the rise? To learn more about it, click here.

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