Also known as psychological shock, acute stress disorder or mental shock, the acute stress reaction refers to a condition that arises as a response to a traumatic event.
ASD or acute stress disorder is always a result of a traumatic event and that’s by the very definition of the disorder. It happens when a person witnesses or experiences an event that causes him a disturbing level of fear or stress. Usually it also involves a serious injury or the threat of a serious injury.
As a result, people with ASD will experience a decrease in emotional responsiveness and many times they might find it impossible to enjoy activities that used to make them happy.
People with ASD will also have problems with concentration, experience dissociative amnesia (have problems remembering details of the traumatic event). They might also feel detached from their own body or experience a feeling of the world as unreal.
Specific signs and symptoms include a diminished in awareness, derealization, dissociative amnesia, depersonalization, a sense of detachment and numbing.
Usually the traumatic event is re-experienced persistently, it’s haunting the person. Also people affected avoid the reminders of the event.
Most often the symptoms of ASD are triggered by situations that involve death, threat of death or threat to a person’s physical integrity.
The risk factors for ASD include a history of PTSD or ASD, the encounter of a traumatic event, a history of dissociative symptoms or a history of mental problems.
People with ASD will avoid anything that reminds them of the traumatic event including conversations, objects, feelings, people, places or activities that remind them of the traumatic event. People with ASD might have a problem to sit still or stop moving.
They might also have problems sleeping at night, are irritable and are constantly on guard or tense. Sometimes they can get startled very easy or in situations when they shouldn’t.
The ASD is a disorder that affects the life of a patient very deeply and might profoundly disrupt essential aspects of a patient’s life such as work and social life.
In order to diagnose the disorder the doctor will need details about symptoms and the traumatic event. Then other possible causes such as medications, other psychiatric disorder, drug abuse or health problems will have to be ruled out.
The only treatments available for the disorder are psychotherapy and counselling. Most of the times it will resolve itself in time. Sometimes it grows into a more severe condition. In case the patient has any intentions to kill himself or hurt other people hospitalization might be necessary.
Other therapies that might help a patient with ASD might include cognitive behavior therapy, hypnotherapy, exposure-based therapy, anti-anxiety medications and antidepressants.
Most often people with ASD will be diagnosed later with PTSD and more than 50% of the cases will resolve within six months.
Unfortunately ASD cannot be prevented because no one can predict a traumatic event to make preparations for such a thing. The best option is to get the specialist help of a doctor as fast as possible after a traumatic event might reduce the risk of developing ASD.
ASD might be prevented only for people who have risky job where they are very likely to witness or experience traumatic events. Such jobs might include firefighters, military personnel, ambulance personnel and a few others.