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Acute Stress Disorder Vs PTSD

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Sometimes you may experience certain situations that are psychologically stressful, with detrimental effects, such as acute stress disorder and PTSD.

Acute stress disorder is associated with flashbacks, physical and emotional detachment, anger outbursts, and concentration problems. It prevails for about 3 to 28 days.

PTSD is a severe or chronic reaction to extremely stressful situations. It lasts for as long as 3 months or more and arises because of inappropriate treatment of acute stress disorder.

These mental disorders can become debilitating and affect your functionality and well being.

What Is Acute Stress Disorder?

Acute stress disorder occurs when you experience a stressful, challenging or traumatic event or situation. Trauma is different for everyone. What is traumatizing to you may not be for the next person.

Acute stress disorder is usually accompanied by the recurring recollection of trauma. Although prevalent in men, women, and children, it is more common in women.

This stress reaction exists for about 3 days to 4 weeks, with symptoms such as aggressiveness, restlessness and recklessness, avoidance, flashbacks.

Acute Stress Disorder is a short-term condition since it does not last long, however, when symptoms persist after stipulated days or weeks, it develops into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD.

Individuals with acute stress disorder sometimes develop feelings of extreme fears and eventually adapt avoidance of their triggers as a coping mechanism.

Factors That Can Cause Acute Stress Disorder

These factors include environmental factors, experience, violence, abuse, etc.

Gender, history of trauma, and history of mental health conditions can also increase your risk of developing acute stress disorder.

Acute Stress Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, can exist in both children and adolescents. It should be treated as soon as possible, to avoid lifelong effects.

What is PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder, unlike acute stress disorder, is a much more advanced condition. It occurs from exposure to highly stressful or traumatic events that may pose threats to self or others.

PTSD happens because of the aftermaths of traumatic events like accidents, grief, death of a loved one, violence, abuse. It can last for as long as a month or more and rarely dissipates like that of acute stress disorder.

It usually arises after a case of untreated acute stress disorder or in the absence of treatment.

Symptoms of PTSD persist for more than a month, these include flashbacks, psychological distress in response to trauma, avoidance of memories, amnesia, loss of interest, irritability, difficulty concentrating.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can affect anyone regardless of age or gender but is more common in women than men.

Symptoms Of Acute Stress Disorder

We can categorize signs of acute stress disorders into three. This includes physical, psychological and dissociative symptoms. These occur within a few minutes or hours. Individuals suffering from acute stress disorder are likely to experience one or more of these symptoms.

Physical symptoms

Heart palpitations

Chest pain, faster heartbeat or pounding heart may be felt during distressing episodes or situations.

Difficulty breathing

In addition to this, you may experience a choking or strangulation feeling that may lead to panic attacks. Sweating may arise from this

Abdominal pains

Lower abdominal and stomach pains may also occur.

Nausea or vomiting

Psychological symptoms

  • Avoidance – You are most likely to evade or avoid triggers as a coping mechanism.
  • Negativity – Mood swings and negative moods are common to acute stress disorder victims.
  • Anger, sadness, tearfulness, and anxiety-induced emotions.
  • Recurrent flashbacks involving the memory of a traumatic event
  • Irritability, hyper-activeness,
  • Difficulty sleeping

Dissociative symptoms include:

  • Emotional detachment
  • Forgetfulness
  • Limitations in awareness of surroundings

Signs of PTSD

Signs of post-traumatic stress disorders usually occur for as long as 3 months or prevail for a longer time, they may appear early or years later.

Recurrent or re-experiencing symptoms

These work as reminders of past situations and arise from your thoughts, feelings, or words. It includes:

  • Flashbacks
  • Frightening thoughts
  • Nightmares

Avoidance. It involves evading staying away from feelings related to the events.

Reactivity and arousal are constant emotions attached to traumatic situations.

  • Sleeping problems
  • Tense feeling
  • Angry outbursts
  • Being easily startled

Cognitive or behavioral signs include:

  • Distortion, guilt and blame
  • Loss of interest
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble remembering important details of events.
  • Negative opinions and thoughts of oneself

What Are The Causes Of Stress Disorders?

Stress disorders are mostly caused by events or situations that are highly stressful and traumatic. You may try to react in order to cope or deal with the conditions. These reactions vary depending on the individual capacity to handle the situation. Here are some causes of stress disorders.

Emotional problems

Every occurrence has impacts that exist. These effects can be emotional, psychological, or physical. Emotional problems like grief, divorce, heartbreak, death can trigger stress disorders.


Certain temperaments can affect how you handle challenges. There are people who are more comfortable talking about their problems, some do not dwell on negativity, while others are constantly overthinking. These types of people are likely to develop stress disorders.


Natural disasters, war can cause stress disorders.


The horrors of a fatal or ghastly accident can make it difficult for those involved to get it out of their minds, and may eventually lead to stress disorders.

Stressful Experiences

It is no new knowledge that every stress disorder arises from an individual’s personal experience. This may be caused by natural, environmental or genetic factors. These experiences can range from assault, violence, abuse, harassment, at work, home, school, or anywhere.

Risk Factors For Stress Disorders

Risk factors or conditions that can increase your risk of developing include:


Women are at a higher risk of having stress disorders, this is due to previous life experiences. Your experiences can influence your rate of having stress disorders.


People who have been exposed to traumatic situations are more likely to experience stress disorders.
Other mental health problems like anxiety, depression can also affect how you affect situations.

How Does Acute Stress Disorder Differ From PTSD

The onset of acute stress disorder starts from day 0 to day 28 after exposure and may dissipate naturally. Meanwhile, Post-traumatic stress disorder develops because of the prevalence of acute stress disorder, it is much more severe and chronic and can have debilitating effects. It also does not resolve without proper treatment.

Although acute stress disorder and PTSD are both mental conditions that affect your wellbeing and functionality, they each have attributes distinct to them.

Acute stress disorder occurrence may be short term and lasts for 3 days to 4 weeks while post-traumatic stress disorder lasts for a month, 3 months, or several years.

There are various symptoms associated with acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. ASD is usually accompanied by dissociative symptoms, while PTSD involves cognitive symptoms.

Treatment for these disorders is also different. Acute stress disorder requires short-term treatment and may dissipate on its own, however, long-term treatment methods are utilized for PTSD. This is because PTSD is more severe.

Similarities Between Acute Stress Disorder And PTSD

Acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder are mental conditions, they sometimes appear because of exposure to traumatic circumstances. The concept of trauma is different for every individual because of their differences in upbringing, personal experiences, family history, and many more.

These are disorders that affect individuals regardless of age or gender since they exist in men, women, children and adolescents.

Acute stress disorder and PTSD can be triggered by personal experience, history, stressful life situations, childhood and upbringing, temperament, assault and many more. These disorders can become crippling if left untreated.

Treatment For Stress Disorders

There are different treatment methods available for stress disorders, it includes medications and therapy to help counteract trauma-induced thoughts.


There are medications and antidepressants available to help ease the excesses of stress disorders. It comprises drugs that also help you sleep better. Consult your doctor or health center for medications to avoid aggravating your condition.


Cognitive-behavioral therapy is involved to teach and help individuals develop skills and strategies that foster mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.


This is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing, it focuses on individual stimuli such as eye movement, hand tapping, and restless habits. The aim of this is to change these reactions, and it is mostly used in PTSD.

Exposure Therapy

Exposure and cognitive processing therapy is a psychological treatment that is used to take control of and combat thoughts of gruelling experiences. It involves efforts to change thinking patterns and help them understand how these thoughts from trauma develop and worsen symptoms.


PTSD and Acute Stress Disorder are so common today, many people living with this disorder do not fully understand the risks and consequences associated with them. These are conditions with many negative effects that affect even children.

It is best to get treatment as soon as you notice symptoms. Open up and speak to people you trust, and lend a helping hand to someone who might have this disorder.

Communicate regularly and develop a bond with your child so that they can always talk to you. Join support groups to help deal with acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.


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