What is Acute Stress Disorder?

What is acute stress disorder, and how is it different from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)? The difference matters. 

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In a world full of trending buzzwords and viral hashtags, it seems that every topic imaginable gets at least some attention. Good, bad, or otherwise, the internet has created supporters of even the most outlandish movements. 

Mental health, of course, is one of the big players on the buzzword bandwagon. With millions of us tweeting and posting relevant terms like self-care, mental health awareness, PTSD recovery, and so on, the mental health movement has gained traction – and for a good reason.

Yet, there is one mental health disorder that gets very little attention. In fact, it gets so little attention, I don’t recall ever seeing it splashed anywhere on any social media platform. 

What is this non-trending mental disorder, you ask? Well, the disorder to which I am referring is called acute stress disorder. It’s imperative that it becomes part of the mental illness vernacular. 

Learn More on Acute Stress Disorder Here:

As you will learn, acute stress disorder must be brought to the forefront of the mental illness internet disorders list. But more than that, it must be dealt with in a timely and professional manner.

Acute stress disorder is very similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), presenting with many of the same symptoms. Symptoms like: 

1. Intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic event

2. Flashbacks or nightmares

3. Persistent inability to experience positive emotions

4. Altered sense of reality

Full Symptoms List Can Be Found Here

Although these are but a few of the symptoms, you can, nonetheless, see the parallels between the two disorders. 

However, there is one fundamental difference. Acute stress disorder is temporary, while PTSD is a chronic, long-term mental illness. 

At first glance, PTSD may seem like a disorder that warrants more attention and expertise. However, I would argue that acute stress disorder is at least just as important, if not more. And here’s why.

You can look at acute stress disorder as the precursor to PTSD. If, for example, acute stress goes untreated, it may develop into post-traumatic stress. 

However, this disorder hits one immediately, normally in the wake of something traumatic. While the symptoms of ASD can be very severe, they generally last for a month and can start within three days of a traumatic experience. 

It is for this reason that we need to make a better effort at educating and distributing information on ASD. My hope is that if we can get it out there, better understood, and on the consciousness of people, we can provide more effective intervention strategies to prevent more cases of PTSD.

Treatment options 

If you suspect that you or someone you know may be suffering from acute stress disorder, it’s very important to seek treatment from a trained mental health professional. 

Equally important is to keep in mind that one’s goal should be to find interventions that minimize or help manage symptomology, so one doesn’t succumb to its more chronic cousin, PTSD. 

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Types of interventions:

1. Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM): This is a comprehensive, integrated, systematic, and multi-component approach to managing traumatic stress in the aftermath of critical incidents, disasters, or other significant events. It is designed to help individuals and communities prevent or mitigate the potential negative impact of traumatic exposure. 

2. Psychotherapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is often considered the most effective therapy for ASD. It aims to help individuals identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with the traumatic event. 

3. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR): This therapy combines elements of exposure therapy with guided eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation.

4. Medication: In some cases, medications may be prescribed to manage specific symptoms of ASD, such as anxiety or insomnia. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are commonly prescribed antidepressants that may be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms.

5. Self-care and stress management: Engaging in self-care activities can help individuals manage stress and promote healing. This may include regular exercise, relaxation techniques (such as deep breathing exercises or meditation), maintaining a healthy diet, and getting enough sleep.

6. Social support: Seeking support from friends, family, or support groups can be beneficial. Talking about the traumatic experience with understanding and empathetic individuals can aid the healing process.

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It’s important to note that these treatment options should be provided by qualified professionals who specialize in trauma and stress-related disorders. Treatment plans may vary depending on the individual’s specific needs and the severity of their symptoms. It’s recommended to consult with a mental health professional to determine the best course of treatment for someone with acute stress disorder.

Finally, let’s all work together to make acute stress disorder a popular hashtag among the many common ones. Doing so will help bring awareness to mental illness and mental illness recovery. After all, the right interventions are key; people just have to know what they are and where to look.

People suffering from acute stress disorder need your help!

Let’s make it happen

Need help? Go to Our Mental Health Resources Centre

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Jonathan Arenburg

Jonathan Reginald-Nixon Arenburg (Born January 14, 1976) is a Canadian mental health blogger, speaker, and published author. Retired from the fire service and long-term care fields, he has written and self-published an autobiographical account of his life-long battle with anxiety, depression and more recently, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Titled, The Road To Mental Wellness, he wrote it for what he calls “therapeutic release.” He published it in hopes it would help others going through similar mental health conditions. The sales of The Road To Mental Wellness have been steady selling over 300 copies since its release on October 10, 2021(World Mental Health Day). Arenburg has also been involved in a collaborative publication Called Lemonade Stand Volume III, a book featuring 20 authors who bravely tell their stories of PTSD. All authors where from the military and or emergency services. Published by Joshua Rivedal and Kathleen Myers for the i’Mpossible project, a mental health advocacy organization. Jonathan has also appeared on several mental health podcasts including The Depression Files, A New Dawn, and The Above Ground Podcast Arenburg has also consulted with the Government of Nova Scotia and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, the Honorable Brian Comer and Candidates for the New Democratic Party of Canada, on improving the mental health care system in Canada. Additionally, Jonathan was recognized in The Nova Scotia Legislature by the Honorable, Chris Palmer, Kings-North MLA, for his Book, The Road To Mental Wellness, his fight to make the mental health care system better. In addition, Chis acknowledged the support he gives to others.

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