By definition, acute stress disorder is the result of a traumatic event in which the person experiences or witnesses an event that causes the victim/witness to experience extreme, disturbing or unexpected fear, stress or pain, and that involves or threatens serious injury, perceived serious injury or death to themselves or someone else. Acute stress reaction is a variation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and is the mind’s and body’s response to feelings (both perceived and real) of intense helplessness.
Symptoms of acute stress reaction
The symptoms show great variation but typically include an initial state of “daze”, with some constriction of the field of consciousness and narrowing of attention, inability to comprehend stimuli, and disorientation.
This state may be quickly followed by either further withdrawal from the surrounding situation (to the extent of a dissociative stupor), or by agitation and overactivity, anxiety, impaired judgement, confusion, detachment, and depression. Autonomic signs of panic anxiety (tachycardia, sweating, flushing) are also commonly present.
The symptoms usually appear within minutes of the impact of the stressful stimulus or event, and disappear within 2–3 days (often within hours). Partial or complete amnesia for the episode may be present.
Symptoms of acute stress disorder
Common symptoms that sufferers of acute stress disorder experience are: numbing; detachment; derealization; depersonalization or dissociative amnesia; continued re-experiencing of the event by such ways as thoughts, dreams, and flashbacks; and avoidance of any stimulation that reminds them of the event. During this time, they must have symptoms of anxiety, and significant impairment in at least one essential area of functioning. Symptoms last for a minimum of 2 days, and a maximum of 4 weeks, and occur within 4 weeks of the event.