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Acute stress disorder is an intense, unpleasant and dysfunctional reaction beginning shortly after an overwhelmingly traumatic event and lasting less than a month. Acute stress disorder is not fatal; however, it may bring about delayed stress reactions like post-traumatic stress disorder if not addressed.

Sometimes acute stress disorder is confused with post-traumatic stress disorder. Both disorders are often confused as both are as a result of being exposed to trauma. The features of this trauma include a tendency to avoid triggering situations, people or events. However, while acute stress disorder can only last up to one month, PTSD can persist for years. Thus, acute stress disorder symptom and post-traumatic stress disorder can be viewed as a continuum, with time being a difference.

Usually, individuals with acute stress disorder have been exposed to a terrifying experience and may have developed symptoms like being emotionally numb and disconnected from themselves. They typically feel like they are not themselves. They could have a decreased awareness of their environment and may experience difficulty with remembering important aspects of the traumatic event. There could also be sleep disturbances, irritability and aggression.

A doctor will diagnose acute stress disorder if there are nine symptoms or more of ASD within one month or more of the traumatic event. It is also essential to rule out substance abuse, medical conditions and psychiatric disorders. The doctor would ensure that the treatment plans target the reduction of symptoms, improvement of coping mechanisms and the prevention of post-traumatic stress disorder. Medications like antidepressants or anticonvulsants are also used to help a person’s condition.

It is essential to seek help for mental health conditions like acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder because both of these conditions are likely to exacerbate the symptoms of other conditions or could also lead to them. Medical conditions like substances use disorders, depression and anxiety. Remember, these conditions could also lead to physical harm.


Jamie Esk, J. M. (2019). What acute stress disorder. MEDICAL NEWS TODAY. Retrieved September 15, 2020, from

Wikipedia. (2020). Acute Stress Disorder. (W. Ludicer, Ed.) Wikipedia. Retrieved September 15, 2020, from


Written by Idowu Mary

Idowu Mary is a fifth-year medical student at Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti (ABUAD), She is a writer on multiple blogs and also teaches creative writing. She is the brain behind the writing outfit - Write with Mary. She is a mental health advocate, who seeks to educate the public on the truth about mental health and its challenges.

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