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Acute Stress Disorder - Effective Ways To Manage It!

Written and reviewed by
Ph.D Psychology, M.Phil - Psychology
Psychologist, Jaipur  •  13 years experience
Acute Stress Disorder - Effective Ways To Manage It!

While stress is very common in most people, acute stress disorder (ASD) is a condition which has the following features.

  • Occurs after a severe incident or trauma including death of a dear person, major accident, severe injury or incident, threat to oneself, etc.
  • Affects either the person affected by the trauma directly or by someone who witnessed the event from close quarters
  • Person goes through severe stress within a month after the event and can last anywhere between 1 day to beyond a month
  • Seen in people who have had trauma and can eventually lead to full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder

Symptoms:

  1. Emotionally feeling detached, numb, or unaffected
  2. Not very aware of the real surroundings, could be hallucinating also
  3. Feels disconnected with the people in the surrounding, both emotionally and physically
  4. Can have episodes of dissociative amnesia where they are not able to recollect the trauma
  5. They avoid stimuli which can induce the memory of the event including talking about related people, places, objects, thoughts, or activities.
  6. They could have recurrent images of the event, including illusions, flashbacks, and recurrent thoughts
  7. Anxiety including trouble sleeping, irritation, lack of focus, constantly tensed, becoming startled, etc.

Management:

  1. The first step is to make a diagnosis to confirm it is, in fact, ASD.
  2. This happens through detailed discussion with the patient and may take a couple of sittings
  3. Instances of drug abuse and other psychiatric problems should be ruled out
  4. People with suicidal tendencies need to be hospitalised to avoid injury to self and/or others
  5. Education about the condition and empathy to help them cope with the situation are very important
  6. Hypnotherapy may be used to uncover hidden feelings, emotions, fears, and thoughts which can help in arriving at a conclusion and also manage the condition
  7. If required, they may need to be provided assistance in terms of accommodation as staying alone may be detrimental. There are good chances of inflicting injury to self and to others.
  8. Staying with close friends or family not just helps in avoiding injury but also provides moral support for the person which can aid in recovery
  9. Medications like anti-anxiety drugs and selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors which are used in treating depression are helpful depending on whether the person presents with anxiety or depression
  10. Cognitive therapy can help in faster recovery and also prevent the acute stress disorder from getting converted to a full-fledged post-traumatic stress disorder
  11. Prevention can be done by seeking professional help if a significant traumatic event has occurred. This will improve coping mechanisms and reduce the impact of the stress. In case you have a concern or query you can always consult an expert & get answers to your questions!
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