Acute Stress Disorder

Acute stress disorder is more persistent and much more intense than the routine stress that many teenagers experience. Unlike everyday stress about schoolwork or social interactions, acute stress disorder is an overwhelming reaction to a specific traumatic event. Examples of such traumatic events include being in a serious accident or witnessing a death. The resonant power of such an acute stressor can disrupt a teenager’s sense of well-being.

What Is Acute Stress Disorder?

The acute stress disorder diagnosis originally was developed in the early 20th century to identify soldiers susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder. More recently, the definition has been expanded to include anyone with an extreme psychological reaction to a traumatic event. Individuals with acute stress disorder tend to experience symptoms that last from three days to one month following initial exposure to the acute stressor. Unlike chronic stress that is not connected to particular trauma, acute stress disorder often passes once the traumatic event has been addressed and processed.

In certain cases, a series of traumatic events can lead to acute stress disorder. For example, sexual abuse and repeated physical abuse often result in acute stress disorder. Regarding symptoms, acute stress disorder is characterized by severe anxiety and an overall dissociative response.

In teens, acute stress disorder often causes the traumatic event to be re-experienced as flashback episodes and bad dreams. Hence, they tend to avoid anything that triggers a memory of the acute stressor. Cognitive behavioral therapy and psychological debriefing have proven to be the most effective acute stress disorder treatment approaches.

Sources: Psych Central, Psychology Today

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