What is acute stress disorder (ASD)? Is it dangerous?

Acute stress disorder (ASD) usually lasts for a short time, up to 30 days depending on the psychological threshold of each person. This state often occurs after traumatic events and also directly affects a person’s quality of life. Early detection and meeting with psychologists will help minimize other unwanted consequences.

What is acute stress disorder (ASD)?

Acute stress disorder is a psychological problem known scientifically as Aute Stress Disorder (ASD). This term is used to describe a stressful, flashback state that occurs after experiencing a traumatic event. These symptoms usually appear 2 to 4 days after the crisis event and must last for at least 3 days but only for a maximum of 1 month.

Acute stress disorder

Acute stress disorder usually develops after the traumatic event but does not last more than 1 month

Events that can cause acute stress disorder can be experienced directly or indirectly by the patient, but they all have a severe emotional impact, this depends on the psychology of each person. Research shows that about 20% of people fall into this state when experiencing situations beyond their tolerance, but with good care and improvement, they can recover in 1 month.

The symptoms of ASD are quite similar to those of traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), while also being quite similar in terms of the causative factors. People who don’t make it through the ASD stage will progress to PTSD, so traumatic stress disorder is usually diagnosed when symptoms have persisted for at least 1 month.

Symptoms of acute stress disorder

Manifestations of acute stress disorder appear soon after the person has experienced a traumatic event. Clinical criteria for diagnosis of ASD symptoms were based on recommendations by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Accordingly, the disease is manifested through 5 main signs: penetration (recalling events), negative emotions, dissociation, avoidance and finally awakening.

Acute stress disorder

Constant flashbacks to the past accompanied by negative, dissociative emotions are typical symptoms of ASD

Specifically, the patient should have 9 of the following most typical symptoms

  • Constantly reliving, unconsciously repeating, traumatic events both in reality and in dreams. These thoughts and flashbacks are penetrating, meaning that the patient feels like the situation is replaying right in front of his eyes, very vivid, the emotions are the same as at that time.
  • Often wakes up from nightmares with flashbacks of the past, often waking up in a state of panic, fear, crying, sweating and no energy at all
  • Feeling stressed when seeing or hearing a certain situation or sound that is reminiscent of the event. For example, a person who witnesses a loved one in a traffic accident while crossing the street at a red light may panic when he sees a traffic light.
  • Often tries to avoid hearing, seeing, or going to events that bring back memories of the past. Their emotions and attitudes also become overly sensitive and agitated when faced with these evocative situations.
  • Feeling changes in the perception of reality, such as a sudden loss of awareness of the surroundings, feeling that time seems to stop, feeling separate from yourself, space, time. This state is called derealization disorder
  • Frequent negative emotions, stress, sadness, crying, panic, agitation, guilt. The patient seems to become a different person, becoming more agitated even though the situation is so normal
  • Dissociative reactions are also well expressed in people with acute stress disorders. For example, the patient feels a temporary disconnect from what is going on around them, like their “soul” and “body” are being completely separated, a condition called “dissolution” way” – depersonalization
  • It seems that I no longer feel joy, happiness, and love from those around me
  • Temporary memory loss, inability to remember the most important part of the traumatic event, is called dissociative amnesia.
  • Sleep disorders, insomnia, nightmares, so the spirit is always in a state of lethargy, confusion, and fatigue.
  • Increase vigilance with your surroundings, always look around with suspicious, tense eyes, your body is always ready to deal with dangerous situations.
  • Difficulty concentrating, hazy
  • Excessive startling reaction to normal situations
  • Tendency to abuse alcohol, tobacco or other stimulants

Acute stress disorder can also co-occur with symptoms of depression and anxiety disorder, but this requires sufficient symptoms to persist for at least 6 months. However, if you have these two diseases at the same time, it will cause a lot of difficulties in the process of examination and treatment.

Causes of acute stress disorder

As mentioned, the traumatic event beyond the patient’s tolerance is the main cause of acute stress disorder. Each person’s psychological tolerance is different, so facing the same situation, some people have ASD but some people are completely normal. This is also very difficult to say, so it is absolutely not advisable to compare the patient and the people around him.

Acute stress disorder

People who are victims or witness horrifying events such as traffic accidents are more susceptible to acute stress disorder

According to experts, in terms of the pathogenesis, when the mind is strongly affected, it will increase the production of cortisol and catecholamines, causing low serotonin levels. This is the main factor that reduces the activity of the brain organ, making these people negative, agitated, having nightmares, lacking alertness and causing symptoms.

There are many effects that make a person obsessed, living in the past can not escape. These events can take place directly or indirectly. In particular, statistics show that the factors with a high risk of causing acute stress disorder are as follows:

  • Accidents of motorbikes, cars… (c 13 – 21%)
  • People who have had a mild traumatic brain injury (14%)
  • Being assaulted, violent, assaulted (16 – 19%)
  • Burns (10%)
  • Industrial accidents due to the nature of work (6 – 12%)
  • Being sexually assaulted or abused (15 percent)
  • Witnessing intimidation and terrorism (accounting for 33%)

Especially, this risk will increase when they themselves experience or witness to their loved ones in such situations. Some other risk factors include

  • There are obvious physical injuries, such as scars or defects in a certain part of the body
  • Patients who have a negative personality live internally and rarely share with others
  • Family circumstances, such as living alone, not getting along with family, lack of parental care
  • Have a family psychiatric history?
  • Having experienced similar events in childhood
  • Women and children have a higher risk of acute stress disorder because the psychological nature of these subjects is also much weaker than that of men.

Is acute stress disorder dangerous?

Negative emotions, bewilderment, past events often repeat in the mind, and insomnia makes the patient seem unable to live and work as usual. Some people tend to hide at home for a long time, leave everything behind, do not want to eat and drink, causing not only mental but also physical decline.

Acute stress disorder

Acute stress disorder seriously affects the quality of life of each person

The abnormal emotions of people with ASD also affect the relationships around them because they are too negative, too excitable, making it impossible for people to approach and support the patient. Not to mention the dissociative state makes the patient feel detached from reality and may appear impulsive behaviors that harm themselves and those around them.

However, a little luck is that acute stress disorder usually only lasts from 3 to 30 days, if during this period the patient is given appropriate mental care, it is completely possible to recover as normal. No long-term treatment is required. However, if this stage is not overcome, it will move to traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with much more seriousness, so it should not be subjective.

Guidelines for the treatment of acute stress disorder

The symptoms of acute stress disorder are often quite recognizable, but many people ignore them because they think they are normal emotions that occur in a person when faced with crisis situations. Therefore, if you miss the “golden time” for treatment, it can easily lead to many unwanted consequences. Depending on the condition, the treatment direction will be different, but all have the same goal of restoring a happy and positive psychology for the patient.

Medical treatment

In fact, the use of drugs in patients with ASD is not fully recommended because of the poor response. The use of drugs mostly only helps to stabilize the mind, sleep, not bring the effect of complete treatment. Patients absolutely follow the instructions of the specialist doctor, do not arbitrarily use any other drugs.

Acute stress disorder

The doctor can prescribe some drugs to gradually stabilize the patient’s mood and emotions

Some of the commonly used classes of drugs include

  • Antidepressants, usually of the group selective reuptake serotonin SSRIs to reduce negative states, excessive melancholy for patients
  • Adrenergic blocking drugs (Propranolol) help stabilize blood pressure, control excessive stress
  • Benzodiazepines are often used to support sleep, reduce symptoms of panic or dissociation, and excessive anxiety..
  • Commonly used drug groups are Rivotril, Tranxene, Lexomil, Seduxen, but they can cause Addictive so usually not used for too long
  • Neuroleptic drugs used when the patient is in a state of excessive agitation, indicated when the benzodiazepine group does not bring the desired effect.


Compared with medication, psychological care is more often recommended for patients with acute stress disorder. The purpose of these methods is often to help the patient get rid of the obsessions from the past, bring the patient back to the present, learn to cope with stress, thereby recovering from negative emotions to regain confidence. happy in life.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, individual therapy, exposure therapy, or exposure therapy are commonly used measures for people with acute stress disorders. Accordingly, the therapist will help the patient adjust the experience to overcome the guilt (in the case of the patient feeling guilty); help patients see the problem they are facing in a fair and right way.

Penetrating emotions are gradually eliminated, patients sleep better, have fewer nightmares, are shared, so the spirit also gradually returns to a stable state. The counselor also guides the patient through mental relaxation techniques through direct speech activities, such as using music, meditation or directly facing stressful situations by imagining to learn. How to deal with these emotions effectively.

People with acute stress disorder, if they receive psychological care early on, will quickly overcome this stage. In addition, group therapy or family therapy is also recommended for patients so that they have the opportunity to share more, gradually reintegrate into normal life.

Care and treatment at home

In fact, it is inevitable that it is inevitable to fall into a state of crisis after being in a traffic accident or witnessing a loved one’s sudden death, the level of acute stress disorder is much more serious. If not properly cared for psychologically, it is also very difficult to get out of this stage. Besides taking medicine or meeting with a psychologist, a healthy and active lifestyle also brings a lot of benefits to the patient.

Acute stress disorder

Meditation and yoga can bring many good effects to patients

Specifically, some measures can bring people with acute stress disorder  positive improvements such as

  • Maintain a stable sleep, every day should sleep 7-8 hours, in which should sleep before 23h so that the body is fully charged, mentally comfortable, more alert.
  • Exercise, especially meditation and yoga are evaluated to bring a lot of good effects to people who are having psychological problems to relieve negative emotions, stabilize the spirit, reduce hyperactive states. Time to improve sleep quality
  • Share feelings and moods with the patient to understand what they are thinking. Sometimes sick people just need someone to listen to them. Note that absolutely should not say words that disregard their feelings such as “even so, I’m afraid”, “there’s nothing to obsess about”…
  • Taking measures to help calm the spirit such as listening to music, reading a book, taking a warm bath or inhaling essential oils also brings a lot of good effects.
  • Practicing journaling every day is also a way for patients to share their feelings that are difficult to say if they do not want to tell others.
  • Practice breathing exercises, learn to think more positively to improve your own mental health

The effects of acute stress disorder will cause many negative impacts on life, health, and spirit both now and in the future. Each person needs to learn how to improve mental health through improving soft skills, cultivating daily life skills. If you find yourself feeling increasingly tired, overwhelmed, and no longer feeling joy, take the initiative to seek the support of psychologists to prevent unwanted situations from appearing.

READ MORE:  Hypertension in the Elderly: Detection and Safe Treatment

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Easy Healthy Lifestyle