Mental health information – Acute stress disorder is a mental disorder that is triggered by a traumatic event that has been faced, experienced, or witnessed. Acute stress disorder usually occurs within one month after the traumatic event and lasts at least three days and can last up to a month.
The symptoms caused by this disorder are similar to those experienced by individuals suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or post-traumatic stress disorder.
Acute stress disorder can affect many aspects of your life and make it difficult for you to talk about traumatic events that you experienced. If symptoms of acute stress persist for more than a month, it can develop into PTSD.
What are the signs and symptoms of acute stress disorder?
Based on the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) which is a guide for the American Psychiatrist Association, there are five criteria that must be met to diagnose someone with acute stress or not, namely:
A. First Criteria
Exposure to the threat of death or death, serious injury, or sexual harassment in one or more of the following ways:
- Witness personally what happens to other people.
- Directly experiencing traumatic events.
- Experiencing extreme or ongoing exposure to details of undesirable traumatic events (e.g. police being constantly exposed to details of incidents of child abuse).
- Study the events that have occurred to a family member or close friend (in cases of death threats or death that have occurred to a family member or friend, these incidents must be very serious or in the form of an accident).
B. Second Criteria
There were at least nine out of 14 symptoms from five categories (distraction, negative mood, dissociation, avoidance, and arousal) that appeared or got worse after traumatic events had occurred.
1. Interference Symptoms
- The persistence of disturbing dreams associated with traumatic events. Children can experience scary dreams about traumatic events without recognizing the meaning of these dreams.
- Psychological disturbances that are intense or persistent after a traumatic event, or a response in the form of a clearly visible physiological reaction when there are internal or external signs that symbolize or resemble aspects of the traumatic event experienced.
- Dissociative reactions (for example, flashbacks of events) in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic event is recurring.
- Memories of traumatic events experienced that are disturbing and appear suddenly and repeatedly. Children may be able to express themes or aspects of traumatic events through repeated play.
2. Negative Moods
- Inability to feel consistently positive emotions (for example, inability to feel happy, satisfied, or to feel love).
3. Dissociative Symptoms
- The inability to remember important aspects of experienced traumatic events, usually the result of a dissociative amnesia disorder and not other factors (eg head injury, alcohol, or drugs).
- Changed perceptions of the reality around the individual or the individual self (for example, seeing oneself from another’s perspective, feeling that time is moving slowly, or feeling dazed).
- Attempts to avoid bad memories (for example, people, places, conversations, activities, objects, or situations) that can trigger memories, thoughts, or disturbing feelings related to traumatic events.
- There are attempts to avoid memories, thoughts, or feelings associated with the traumatic event experienced.
5. Body Stimulation
- The five senses are more sensitive and make individuals behave intensely and in an extreme (hypervigilance).
- Excessive startled response.
- Difficulty sleeping (for example, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep).
- Irritable behavior or expressions of anger (with little or no provocation), usually in the form of verbal or physical aggression towards people or things.
C. Third Criteria
The duration of the symptoms experienced ranged from three days to one month after exposure to the traumatic event. However, the symptoms experienced may be felt immediately after the traumatic event has occurred and these symptoms must remain present for at least three days.
D. Fourth Criteria
The symptoms experienced cause significant disruption to social life, work, and other important aspects of the individual’s life.
E. Fifth Criteria
The symptoms experienced cannot be related to the physiological effects of a particular substance (for example, drugs or alcohol) or certain medical conditions (for example, traumatic brain injury), and are not caused by a brief psychotic disorder. ).
What are the causes of acute stress disorder?
Acute Stress Disorder can occur when a person experiences, witnesses or faces a traumatic event. The event creates feelings of hopelessness, fear or intense horror.
Traumatic events that can trigger ASD include death, threat of death, serious injury, and disability to yourself and others. Several other factors that also play a role in increasing the risk of ASD include:
- Have a history of suffering from ASD or Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
- Have a history of suffering from dissociative symptoms at the time of experiencing a traumatic event.
- Have a history of mental problems.
- Have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event firsthand.
Diagnosis of acute stress disorder
To diagnose ASD in sufferers, doctors and other mental health professionals usually ask several questions about symptoms or traumatic events they experienced.
These questions are also useful in ruling out other possibilities, such as drug abuse, side effects of certain medications, medical conditions, or other mental disorders. In addition, physicians and other mental health professionals use the diagnosis from the DSM-5 guide to assess whether an individual has ASD.
Many ASDs in patients eventually develop PTSD. PTSD symptoms last more than one month, which can result in severe stress and difficulty doing activities in daily life. Therefore, special handling is needed to reduce the risk of PTSD.
How to treat acute stress disorder?
To treat acute stress disorder, doctors usually suggest one or more methods, such as:
- Inpatient care, if the patient endangers himself or others.
- Psychiatry education, so that sufferers can recognize the disorder they are experiencing.
- Assistance, in the form of obtaining shelter, food, clothing, and contacting family members if needed.
- Therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure-based therapy (Exposure-Based Therapy), and hypnotherapy can be used to improve recovery and prevent acute stress disorder from developing into PTSD.
- Medicines, to relieve symptoms of anxiety, such as anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants.
- Psychiatric evaluation, to match the criteria for the disorder based on the symptoms experienced.
If you have ASD, it is helpful if you can share your traumatic experiences with those closest to you or you can join communities of people who have experienced similar things to you.
If the people closest to you have ASD, you can help the sufferer by doing the following:
- Choose an appropriate time to talk about the traumatic event the sufferer has experienced.
- Willing to listen attentively and empathically to the traumatic event experienced by the sufferer and not forcing the sufferer to tell stories immediately.
- Immediately refer a doctor and other mental health professionals if the sufferer thinks or attempts suicide.
- Recognizing and interrupting the conversation when the conversation becomes too intense for the sufferer, you can continue the conversation at a later time when the person has calmed down and is ready to continue talking.
How can you prevent acute stress disorder?
A traumatic event or event is not a predictable event. These events can occur at various locations and times, and are experienced by many people. Therefore, no prevention can be done for acute stress disorder or ASD.
Getting treatment immediately after experiencing a traumatic event can help reduce an individual’s chances of developing ASD. It is important for a worker who is at high risk of experiencing a traumatic event (for example, a soldier) to undergo simulations and counseling to reduce the risk of the worker experiencing both ASD and PTSD when exposed to a traumatic event.
If you or someone close to you experiences any of these symptoms after experiencing a traumatic event or having thoughts of or attempted suicide, consult your doctor or other mental health professional immediately.
What needs to be prepared before going to the doctor?
Before consulting with doctors and other mental health professionals, you can make a list of your symptoms, medical and mental health history, and a list of drugs or substances that are being consumed. You can also ask doctors and other mental health professionals questions, such as:
- What is the most suitable treatment for me?
- Are there any ways I can deal with my disorder?
- How can my family or the people closest to me help me deal with my disorder?
- Are there brochures, websites, or printed materials that I can get about my condition?
Those are some explanations about acute stress definition. Hopefully this can be useful for all of us.