• What
  • Causes
  • Risk Factors
  • Symptoms
  • Diagnosed
  • Treatment
  • Long Term Impact
  • Prevent

What is Acute Stress Disorder?

Acute stress disorder (ACD) is usually developed with a short span of a day or a week within a traumatic event. Experts also believe that disorder may start after a span of one month after the traumatic event. Once the victim is affected with the disorder, it is expected to last at least two days and may last up to one month. Victims who are affected with acute stress disorder show the similar symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD).

It is estimated that 10-35% of people who becomes a victim of a traumatic event gradually develops acute stress disorder. Physical assault, rape, near-death experience, murder or combat are the examples of disturbing events.

What causes Acute Stress Disorder?

A person becomes a victim of acute stress disorder when experiences, witnesses or deal with a traumatic event. This totally disturbs the person and he becomes a victim of intense fear, horror or helplessness. The traumatic events which usually causes the acute stress disorder includes but not limited to:

  • Death of a nearest person
  • Physical integrity threat to oneself or to others
  • Serious injury threat to oneself or to others
  • Death threat to oneself or to others

Who is at Risk for Acute Stress Disorder?

Any person can be a victim of acute stress disorder when he faces a traumatic event. A person may be at high risk of becoming a victim of acute stress disorder if the person:

  • Have/had experienced, witnessed or dealt with a traumatic events
  • Have/had acute stress disorder or post traumatic stress disorder
  • Have/had mental problems
  • Have/had dissociative symptoms

What are the Symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder?

The symptoms which the victim may experience if the victim has acute stress disorder are:

Dissociative Symptoms

A victim may experience 3 or more of the following dissociative symptoms if the victim has acute stress disorder:

  • Victim may experience numbness, detachment, partially or totally emotionally unresponsive
  • Victim may experience lack of awareness towards the surroundings and stays isolated
  • Derealisation (victim may feel strange or unreal to your environment)
  • Depersonalization (victim may not feel your thoughts or emotions to be real)
  • Dissociative amnesia (victim may not remember any important aspect or aspects associated with the traumatic event)

Re-experiencing the Traumatic Event

The person who is the victim of acute stress disorder may frequently reexpereince the traumatic event by following ways:

  • Victim may have frequent thoughts, illusions, nightmares and flashback episodes of the traumatic event
  • Victim may have lack of awareness towards the surroundings
  • Victim may experience reliving the traumatic event


Victim may avoid any stimuli which can lead to reexpereince or remember the traumatic event such as:

  • People
  • Feelings
  • Thoughts
  • Activities
  • Places
  • Conversations

Anxiety or Increased Provocation

A person being a victim of acute stress disorder may include anxiety and increased provocation as symptoms. The symptoms of anxiety and increased provocation level include:

  • Sleeping Trouble
  • Difficulty while concentrating
  • Being irritable
  • Staying on-guard or tensed
  • Easily startled at inappropriate occasions
  • Inability to sit still or stop moving


The person becomes the victim of acute stress disorder may show distress as a symptom. The symptoms of distress may include disturbing significant factors of the victim’s life, such as:

  • Social settings
  • Work settings
  • Lack of ability to begin or end any essential tasks
  • Helplessness to share the traumatic event

How is Acute Stress Disorder Diagnosed?

One of the most excellent approaches towards diagnosing acute stress disorder is by approaching a clinical hypnotherapist. The therapist may ask the victim few questions regarding the traumatic event and the victim’s symptoms. It is also important to exclude other causes such as medication, drug abuse, health problems, or any other psychiatric disorders.

How is Acute Stress Disorder Treated?

When the consultant psychologist treats the victim for acute stress disorder, psychologist may use the following methods, which includes but not limited to:

  • Consultant psychologist undergoes psychiatric evaluation to determine the specific need of the victim
  • If the victim is prone to suicide or at the risk of harming others, hospitization is required
  • If necessary, the therapist provides guiding in location food, clothing, shelter and family
  • Consultant psychologist provides psychiatric education to help the victim to understand about the disorder
  • Victim maybe offered medication to relieve from the symptoms of acute stress disorder
  • Cognitive behaviour therapy (it helps the victim to recover faster and to prevent the victim from turning into post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • Therapies based on exposure
  • Hypnotherapy

If Untreated, the Long Term impact

People who have been a victim of acute stress disorder and leaves it unattended from a professional help was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. A victim is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder if the symptoms continue for over a month and thus causing a considerable amount of stress and functioning difficulties.

How can I Prevent Acute Stress Disorder?

Since there are no ways by which we can make sure that a person would never experience a traumatic event, and thus there is no way to prevent acute stress disorder. However, there are several ways to trim down the possibility of someone who is developing acute stress disorder. Consulting a hypnotherapist within a couple of hours after experiencing a traumatic event may trim down the possibility of developing acute stress disorder. People who are more prone to be a victim of traumatic events, such as military personnel, may benefit if they attend the training and counselling to trim down the possibility of developing acute stress disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder when a traumatic event takes place.


We’ve experienced practising clinical hypnotherapist, consultant psychologist and Forensic Hypnologist in our team to work with people with a full range of mental health problems and emotional distress.

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