Acute Stress Disorder

What is Acute Stress Disorder?

Acute stress disorder is a mental condition that develops anxiety after a traumatic episode or event. ASD persists for up to 3 days or even a month. Its symptoms are very similar to Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but ASD develops within a month after a painful incident that may be concerned with the death of a close one, severe injury, threat or physical abuse.

Medical experts and researchers describe this disorder as a mental and behavioral condition that happens as an adverse psychological response to the traumatic incident. ASD gets distinguished by the development of dissociative, anxiety and other associated symptoms. ‘Psychological shock’ and ‘mental shock’ are two other names.

The accurate incidences of this disorder are unknown, and data is unavailable. However, according to the studies and researches, the occurrence of ASD fluctuates from person to person.

Code of Acute Stress Disorder

The ICD9 code for this disorder is 308.

Acute Stress disorder incidence

According to the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, the survival rate of ASD usually ranges from 6 to 33%. The accurate incidence’s data are unavailable, but ASD occurrence and cure depends on the type of trauma faced by the patient.


As per the medical researches and cases reported, ASD is an ailment that arises due to the result of any frightening event. Consequently, the person experiences stress, headache, extreme fear, and agony. Some of the possible causes include:

  • Death of loved ones
  • The threat of death to oneself or others
  • Serious injury
  • War
  • Terrorist event
  • Assault
  • Domestic violence
  • Serious accident
  • Rape
  • Threat to physical integrity to oneself or others

Risk factors

  • History of post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Presence of other mental conditions
  • Experiencing other traumatic events
  • History of dissociative disorder symptoms


  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Reduced emotional sensitivity
  • Anxiety and increased arousal
  • Pain on exposure to something that reminds the traumatic incident
  • Thoughts, dreams, and illusion of fearful event in the past
  • Persistent images of the painful incident
  • Concentration problems
  • Irritability
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Avoid involvement in any family activity, adventure/enjoyable activity
  • Motor agitation
  • Panic attacks
  • Lack of association with their own body
  • Difficulty in recollecting past event
  • Hyper-diligence
  • Exaggerated responses

Dissociative Symptoms

  • Numbness
  • Reduced consciousness
  • Depersonalization
  • Dissociative amnesia (a condition in which one cannot remember the most important aspects of past traumatic events)
  • Reduced awareness of surrounding
  • Derealization
  • Social anxiety
  • Avoidance of people, places and things that triggers the memories of painful past episodes


  • Occupational or social disability
  • Suicide
  • Psychosis or anxiety disorders and severe depression, caused by de-compensation
  • Difficulties in the cure of physical injuries


Diagnosis involves a thorough physical examination. For accurate evaluation, the symptoms of ASD should last for at least 3-4 weeks. Observation of symptoms and interaction through questions are two basic techniques to find out such kind of mental disorder.

Differential Diagnosis

  • Any pre-existing mental disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Various anxiety disorder
  • Mental disorder occurred due to head strain or some other medical situations


  • Cognitive Behavior therapy: CBT is one of the best techniques to cure Acute Stress Disorder. This therapy works on two crucial mechanisms as the primary motive is to enrich the knowledge and change the pattern of thinking/thought. The next step is to change the attitude and way of reaction in anxiety-arousing condition. Also, CBT cures the symptoms of ASD and tends to avoid the post-traumatic stress disorder.
  • Anxiety management groups: These groups involve sharing or demonstrating strategies and methods of cure to others by the patients. People learn about the innovative ways to combat the disorder.
  • Psychological debriefing: It is a process of a severe therapeutic development just after the incident. Therefore a person can discuss it and avoid the distressful event gradually.

Other Treatments

  • Psychiatric education about the disorder
  • Medications to reduce anxiety/depression
  • Exposure therapy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Talk therapy
  • Family and relative’s support


The outlook of this mental condition is positive as per the majority of cases. If the right treatment, therapy, and proper care are available for ASD Patient, then the prognosis will be good. For removing ASD from the core, early detection is necessary. Further, it is beneficial for the better prognosis also.


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