Acute Stress Disorder Dsm 5-Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Acute stress disorder is basically, a mental health condition that can happen just immediately after a traumatic experience. This condition can cause a number of psychological symptoms. This is without recognition or treatment, and it can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Some weeks after a traumatic event, an anxiety disorder may be developed. This anxiety disorder is also known as acute stress disorder (ASD). However, ASD usually occurs within the space of one month of such a traumatic event.

It normally lasts three days and it can also continue for up to one month. More so, there is similarity in the symptoms experienced by people with ASD and those having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Acute stress disorder (ASD), may develop in a person who has experienced or witnessed a life-threatening, terrifying or otherwise deeply traumatic event.

In every one, traumatic experiences are processed in persons own way. It is possible that an event which does not trigger ASD in one person may trigger the condition in another.

Acute stress disorder majorly seems to be very common in women than in men. A certain group of people are more prone to the risk of developing acute stress disorder.

These include people who have a prior history of ASD, post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychiatric disorders. Others are people who have experienced a previous traumatic event.

A Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

It is very normal to experience flashbacks, nightmares or intrusive memories after a trauma. A lot of people in this condition may feel tense, scared or helpless. They may also have difficulty sleeping and struggle to go about their daily activities.

However, most people start getting better within a few weeks. In a case where the symptoms of a stress reaction continue, a person may be diagnosed with PTSD. Furthermore, if the symptoms of ASD continues for more than 30 days, it may be considered a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In as much as post-traumatic stress disorder can affect people of any age and gender, it appears to be common among some groups. These group of people includes refugees, firefighters, female victims of rape, and teenagers who have experienced car accidents.

Generally, most people usually get better even without treatment. However, the condition of recovery without treatment may take months or even years.

In most cases, treatment involving psychotherapy sometimes with medication may help to ease the symptoms and shorten the PTSD duration. In other cases too, people with PTSD may become a chronic condition.

Some Symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder

The very symptoms of acute stress disorder usually occur immediately after a traumatic event. In order to ascertain the proper diagnosis of ASD, they ought to be present for between three and 30 days.

People who are down with ASD regularly experience extreme feelings of terror and helplessness. This is usually in reaction to the trauma. It may also develop psychological and physical symptoms.

The Physical Symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder

Mostly, the physical symptoms are normally caused by stress hormones such as adrenaline and as well, over-activity of the nervous system. These types of symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Palpitations, i.e. a pounding heart
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Sweating

This group of symptoms typically develops within minutes or hours of the traumatic event. It may also clear within a few hours or days. However, the symptoms persist for weeks, in some cases.

The Psychological Symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder

Some of the psychological symptoms of acute stress disorder include these five broad categories:

  • Intrusion symptoms. These symptoms are present when a person can’t stop revisiting bad memories, a traumatic event through flashbacks, or dreams.
  • Negative Mood: This is a manifestation of experiencing negative thoughts, sadness, and low mood by the person.
  • Dissociative symptoms: These kinds of symptoms may include a situation an altered sense of reality. Others are lacking the awareness of surroundings, and the inability to remember parts of the traumatic event.
  • Avoidance symptoms: People suffering from these symptoms do purposefully avoid thoughts, feelings, people, or places which they associate with their traumatic event.
  • Arousal symptoms. These may refer to situations of insomnia and other sleep disturbances. It also includes difficulty concentrating, irritability or aggression, which can be either verbal or physical. The person in this situation may also have a tensed feeling or on guard and become startled very easily.

In addition, people with ASD may develop more mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

The symptoms of anxiety include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Feeling a sense of impending doom
  • Excessive worrying
  • Racing thoughts

The symptoms of depression include:

  • Fatigue
  • Crying unexpectedly
  • Loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable
  • Persistent feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or numbness
  • Changes in appetite or body weight
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm

The Causes of Acute Stress Disorder

The condition of acute stress disorder can develop in people after experiencing one or more traumatic events. Traumatic events are capable of causing significant physical, emotional, or psychological harm to a person.

Some of the possible traumatic events may include:

  • Natural disasters
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Sexual assault, rape, or domestic abuse
  • The death of a loved one
  • The threat of death or serious injury
  • Receiving a terminal diagnosis
  • Surviving a traumatic brain injury

Risk factors of Acute Stress Disorder

Acute Stress Disorder can occur at any point in time in any ones’ life. However, there are people who may have a higher risk of developing such a condition.

Some of the factors that are most likely to increase an individual’s risk of developing ASD include:

  • A history of other mental health disorders
  • Previously experiencing, witnessing, or having knowledge of a traumatic event
  • A history of dissociative reactions to past traumatic events
  • Being female
  • Being younger than 40 years old

Diagnosis of ASD

ASD can be diagnosed by a doctor or mental health professional. Questions about a person’s traumatic event and symptoms will be asked, among other questions.

A person typically develops nine or more ASD symptoms within one month of the traumatic event. When this happens a healthcare professional usually diagnose the person of ASD. Some of the symptoms that manifest after the one-month time frame or longer may indicate PTSD.

In order to diagnose ASD, other possible causes may be ruled out by a healthcare professional, which include:

  • Underlying medical conditions
  • Other psychiatric disorders
  • Substance use

Treatment of Acute Stress Disorder

Developing a treatment plan between you and the healthcare professional is the first step in treating ASD

This treatment for ASD usually focuses on reducing the symptoms, improving coping mechanisms, and preventing PTSD.

Treatment options for ASD may include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is usually the first line of treatment recommended by doctors for people with ASD. It requires a trained mental health professional to develop effective coping strategies with the CBT.
  • Mindfulness: This is a technique that teaches Mindfulness-based interventions for managing stress and anxiety. Inclusive of these are meditation and breathing exercises.
  • Healthcare professional may prescribe medications such as antidepressants or anticonvulsants to help treat the symptom

Prevention of Acute Stress Disorder

Avoiding the experience of traumatic events are not always possible. Hence, there may be ways that help to reduce the risk of developing ASD afterward.

These can include:

Treating of other mental health disorders

You need to work with a behavioral coach in order to develop effective coping mechanisms

After experiencing a traumatic event, you need to consult a doctor or mental health professional.

Getting help from family and friends

You need proper training to handle a job that might likely expose you to a high risk of a traumatic event

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5)

Clinicians and psychiatrists normally use the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to diagnose psychiatric illnesses. The latest version is known as DSM-5, and it was released in 2013. The publication of the DSM is credited to the American Psychiatric Association. It cuts across all categories of mental health disorders for both adults and children.

The DSM focuses mostly on describing the symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder and it is non-theoretical. It also contains the statistics concerning which gender is most affected by the illness.  Additionally, it has a record of the typical age of onset, the effects of treatment and common treatment approaches.

The DSM is mostly used in the United States for psychiatric diagnosis, treatment recommendations, and insurance coverage purposes. In May 2013 the newest version of the DSM was published.

Validity has been a major point of issue with the DSM. However, in this regard, the NIMH launched a research project known as Research Domain Criteria (RDoC). This project is to transform diagnosis by incorporating genetics, imaging, cognitive science. It also includes other levels of information to lay the foundation for a new classification system they feel will be more biologically based.

Changes in the DSM-5

There are a number of significant changes made on the DSM-5 from the earlier DSM-IV. The very immediately and quite clear changes are moving from using Roman numerals to Arabic numbers.

Mostly, the prominent changes in the DSM-5 is the removal of the axis system.  However, it lists categories of disorders instead, and along with a number of different related disorders. Few examples of categories included in the DSM-5 include anxiety disorders, bipolar and related disorders. Others are depressive disorders, feeding and eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive and related disorders, and personality disorders.


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