Acute Stress Disorder

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Acute stress disorder (ASD) is a response to a traumatic event, such as a near-death experience, rape, physical assault, combat, terrorist attack, witnessing a murder or losing a child. First responders are also at an increased risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and acute stress disorder, as they are exposed to a multitude of traumatic and even violent events.

Acute Stress Disorder Symptoms

Symptoms of acute stress disorder are similar to those of PTSD, but the timing and duration of symptoms is what sets these two disorders apart. ASD is characterized by symptoms that last no longer than one month, whereas symptoms of PTSD last at least six months. Nightmares, flashbacks, depressed mood, avoidance of specific locations and situations are all common signs of both ASD and PTSD. In addition, ASD can be considered the first step in developing PTSD, but if symptoms are present for less than one year, the diagnosis excludes PTSD. After the traumatic event, a patient with ASD will experience three or more dissociative symptoms, at least one re-experiencing of symptoms, signs of avoidance and more.

Acute stress disorder symptoms are broken down into different categories: dissociative symptoms, re-experiencing symptoms, avoidant symptoms, and anxiety or increased arousal. Here is a breakdown of the symptoms in each category:

Dissociative symptoms

  • Feeling detached or being emotionally unresponsive
  • Having a reduced awareness of one’s surroundings
  • Depersonalization, in which emotions and thoughts do not seem like one’s own
  • Dissociative amnesia, an inability to remember an important aspect of a traumatic event

Re-experiencing Symptoms

  • Images, thoughts, nightmares, illusions or flashback episodes of the experience
  • Feeling as if one is reliving the experience
  • Feelings of distress when something reminds the person of the event


  • Avoiding people, places, conversations, objects, activities, thoughts or feelings that may remind the person of the experience

Anxiety or increased arousal

  • Trouble with sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • An inability to stop moving
  • Feeling tense or guarded at all times
  • Being easily startled


Symptoms cause distress in daily life, such as:

  • Being unable to complete necessary tasks
  • Being unable to talk to others about the traumatic experience

Acute Stress Disorder Treatment

Acute stress disorder treatment can include medication, therapy and a combination of both. Medication – as prescribed by a medical professional – can be used to relieve some of the symptoms of acute stress disorder, such as anxiety or depression. Therapy is another very important and helpful part of treatment for acute stress disorder. This should include a psychiatric evaluation to determine specific needs in therapy.

Different types of therapy include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), neurofeedback, cognitive remediation or exposure-based therapies. Additionally, alternative therapies, such as yoga or art therapy, may be helpful. Medications known to treat acute stress disorder symptoms include benzodiazepines and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), a class of antidepressants.

Sovereign Health of Arizona

Sovereign Health of Chandler, Arizona, is a female-only residential behavioral health center, with treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction, mental health disorders and co-occurring conditions. Additionally, this location provides a special emphasis on treating trauma that may have been caused by physical or mental abuse, substance abuse or mental health issues.

All of our treatment center locations throughout the continental U.S. are based on a philosophy that recognizes our patients’ unique needs and circumstances by providing them with personalized treatment plans tailored to their specific treatment needs. We also offer holistic programming to aid in the rehabilitation of brain functioning and educate our patients on life skills to equip them with the tools they need to lead productive lives and avoid relapse.

Therapeutic activities included in our program include equine therapy, art therapy, yoga, meditation and exercise. Sovereign Health of Arizona provides its female patients with a residential rehab in a safe and supportive environment where they can focus on their recovery.

Sovereign Health of Arizona’s women’s center accepts most major health insurance. If you would like further information about treatment for acute stress disorder, please call our 24/7 helpline to speak with a member of our admissions team.

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