Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)

Acute stress disorder is the development of characteristic symptoms lasting from 3 days to 1 month following exposure to one or more traumatic events(Bryant et al. 2011b). The clinical presentation of acute stress disorder may vary by individual but typically involves an anxiety response that includes some form of re-experiencing of or reactivity to the traumatic event(Bryant 2011b). In some individuals, a dissociative or detached presentation can predominate, although these individuals typically will also display strong emotional or physiological reactivity in response to trauma reminders. In other individuals, there can be a strong anger response in which reactivity is characterized by irritable or possibly aggressive responses.

The traumatic event can be re-experienced in various ways. Commonly, the individual has recurrent and intrusive recollections of the event. The recollections are spontaneous or triggered recurrent memories of the event that usually occur in response to a stimulus that is reminiscent of the traumatic experience (e.g., the sound of a backfiring car triggering memories of gunshots). (APA 2013)

An exposure to a traumatic event is the factor for an individual to be at risk for acute stress disorder. Other risk factors for the disorder include a history of prior trauma(Barton et al. 1996; Harvey and Bryant 1998b; Harvey and Bryant 1999b), prior mental disorder, high levels of negative affectivity, greater perceived severity of the traumatic event, and an avoidant coping style(Barton et al. 1996; Harvey and Bryant 1998b; Harvey and Bryant 1999b).

Impaired functioning in social, interpersonal, or occupational domains has been shown across survivors of accidents, assault, and rape who develop acute stress disorder. The extreme levels of anxiety that may be associated with acute stress disorder may interfere with sleep, energy levels, and capacity to attend to tasks (APA 2013).

There are treatments for individuals who experience ASD. If you suspect you may have ASD, please mention this to your therapist and we can assess your symptoms and present treatment options to address your concerns.

Works Cited
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders. In Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC. https://doi-org.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596.dsm07

Barton KA , Blanchard EB , Hickling EJ : Antecedents and consequences of acute stress disorder among motor vehicle accident victims. Behav Res Ther 34(10):805-813, 1996

Harvey AG , Bryant RA : Predictors of acute stress following mild traumatic brain injury. Brain Inj 12(2):147-154, 1998b

Harvey AG , Bryant RA : Predictors of acute stress following motor vehicle accidents. J Trauma Stress 12(3):519-525, 1999b

Bryant RA , Friedman MJ , Spiegel D , et al: A review of acute stress disorder in DSM-5. Depress Anxiety 28(9):802-817, 2011b 10.1002/da.20737

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