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Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) and Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Acute Stress Disorder can occur when anxiety and dissociative symptoms develop rapidly as a reaction to traumatic event, or an event that was perceived as extremely stressful. It is diagnosed when:

  • The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with (e.g., can include learning of) an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or other.
  • Though not required, the persons response is likely to involve intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

Either while experiencing or after experiencing the distressing event, the individual has 3 or more of the following dissociative symptoms:

  • A subjective sense of numbing, detachment, or absence of emotional responsiveness.
  • A reduction in awareness of his or her surroundings (e.g.," being is a daze")
  • De realisation (where the external world feels a bit un-real and distant)
  • Dissociative amnesia (i.e., inability to recall an important aspect of trauma)

The disturbance of an acute stress disorder must last for a minimum of 3 days and a maximum of 4 weeks, and must occur within 4 weeks of the traumatic event.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an anxiety disorder that can occur immediately after someone has experienced a terrifying experience or months and years after the event. It is normal to experience confusion and distress after a traumatic event and sometimes the symptoms pass on their own. It is when symptoms persist that they can become troublesome.

The type of events that can cause PTSD include:

  • Serious road accidents
  • Violent personal assaults, such as sexual assault, mugging or robbery
  • Prolonged sexual abuse, violence or severe neglect
  • Witnessing violent deaths
  • Military combat
  • Being held hostage
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Natural disasters, such as severe floods, earthquakes or tsunamis

PTSD can also be experienced as a reliving of the events, including flashbacks, nightmares, feelings of guilt, isolation and outbursts of anger and irritability.