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Understanding Acute Stress Disorder Criteria

The criteria for acute stress disorder (ASD) can include any stress reaction occurring in the initial month after exposure to a traumatic event. Acute stress disorder is an unpleasant reaction that starts shortly after an overwhelming traumatic event and usually lasts less than one month. If the symptoms persist longer than one month, it is then deemed to be more chronic, and the diagnosis changes to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). 

Differences Between ASD and PTSD

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Both ASD and PTSD are reactions to traumatic events, but there are a few differences with acute stress disorder vs. PTSD.  An acute stress reaction occurs initially, with the chance of its manifesting into post-traumatic post disorder after. That being said, sometimes you may develop post-traumatic disorder symptoms that last more than a month without having had that initial acute stress reaction.

PTSD symptoms start slower than ASD symptoms but can last longer up to several years if not treated. Another disorder that also has similarities to ASD is adjustment disorder, but like PTSD, there are subtle differences.

Differences Between ASD and Adjustment Disorder

An adjustment disorder is similar to acute stress disorders in that it is an emotional or behavioral response to a stressful event in a person’s life. With acute stress disorder vs. adjustment disorder, the criteria for adjustment disorders involve an unhealthy and potentially excessive reaction within three months of the stressful event. 

Adjustment disorders are also caused by more broadly stressful events such as job loss, a marriage, or the birth of a child. In contrast, acute stress disorder criteria include more extreme causes of trauma.

Causes of Acute Stress Disorder

The causes of ASD can include a wide range of issues, including:

  • The death of a loved one
  • The threat of death or severe injury
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • A physical attack, mugging, rape, or other sexual violence
  • Natural disasters

Risk Factors for Acute Stress Disorder

Many factors may contribute to a person’s risk of developing ASD, and a few include the following:

The symptoms that may develop also vary depending on the type of manifestation that occurs. 

Multiple-Type Symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder

Acute stress disorder criteria include many symptoms that can occur during the traumatic event and manifest further through physical, psychological, dissociative, intrusion and avoidance-type symptoms. 

Physical Symptoms

  • Heart palpitations or thumping heart 
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Headache

Psychological Symptoms

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability and difficulty concentrating
  • Emotional ups and downs

Dissociative Symptoms

  • Feeling disconnected from one’s body
  • Emotionally unresponsive
  • Feeling dazed and confused 

Intrusive Symptoms

Another very significant symptom of acute stress disorder is the overwhelming feeling of intrusion where the traumatic event plays back repeatedly through flashbacks and recurring dreams. When these intrusive thoughts take over, they can feel incredibly overwhelming and restricting, adding to the feelings of stress.

Avoidance Symptoms

Avoidance is another signifier in acute stress disorder criteria, signaling someone is avoiding potential triggers from the originating distressing event. These symptoms should present themselves at a severe level to be considered ASD, at which time proper treatment should be given.

Treatment for Acute Stress Disorder

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One successful treatment for ASD is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT works by changing the thoughts or the patterns of beliefs surrounding the traumatic event and making them a more positive influence rather than harmful. CBT also works to change the behaviors that cause anxiety and stressful feelings that may occur. 

Another treatment option is hypnotherapy which can help address what constitutes acute stress disorder criteria since hypnotherapy can be extraordinarily effective for dealing with trauma.

Seeking therapy is highly recommended to navigate PTSD. There are many different therapy forms, so finding what therapy is best for you or someone you love is an essential first step.

At Miami Hypnosis and Therapy, we offer a wide range of treatments, including CBT, hypnotherapy, and many others. Our tailor-made treatments are often blended to form an integrative type of mental health healing designed to work for your individual needs. We will work with you to determine if what you are experiencing falls under acute stress disorder criteria, and offer help to process what you’re going through in a safe, supportive space.

Learn how to let go of unwanted fears that are holding you back from living the joyful life you were meant to have. Transform your life, and book your appointment today!.

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