Jan 10, 2024 in Health

Acute Stress Disorders

Acute stress disorder (ASD) is considered to be one of the mental disorders caused by a traumatic event. A person with ASD has various symptoms associated with the disorientation of the world, self, mind, and memory, which affects general mental health. The main problem is that ASD can lead to other diseases and aggravate the well-being of a person. The goal of the research is to examine the main characteristics of this disorder to identify the main outcomes of early diagnosis and the need for treatment. The study shows that many causes and factors lead to the development of ASD. In particular, the nature and type of traumatic event, including the incidences of violence, assault, or mockery, is a defining factor in the frequency of cases of the disease. To diagnose ASD, the main criteria and symptoms are established according to which the presence of the disorder is determined. The current analysis reveals that ASD is a precursor to posttraumatic stress disorder and can also lead to autoimmune diseases. Therefore, early diagnosis is a necessary measure. Acute stress disorder interview (ASDI) is a tool developed to detect ASD. The need for treatment is justified by an increasing number of people diagnosed with ASD-related disorders and diseases. To address the problem and further consequences, good programs and approaches are required.

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Acute Stress Disorders

Acute stress disorder (ASD) is a disease associated with mental or emotional reaction to a specific traumatic event, the symptoms of which last for months. ASD is accompanied by various symptoms that dominate the clinical picture of the disorder and which are determined by established diagnostic criteria. They are defined as the violation of the integral perception of the surroundings, consciousness, memory, or self-identity. ASD depends on various factors and types of traumatic event. On a broad scale, only a small number of individuals with ASD may not respond to stress and exhibit ASD–related symptoms, which can result in grave consequences and cause other diseases. Consideration of the main characteristics of acute stress disorder will allow a better understanding of the need for early diagnosis and prompt treatment of the disease to reduce the negative consequences in the future.


The causes of ASD can ensue from various situations related to violence, bullying, assault, accident, or natural disaster. Persons who develop ASD have a predisposition to stress. However, ASD mainly includes those who are directly or indirectly subjected to terrible events. A person that suffers from ASD may be either victim of injury or violence. He or she can experience a threat to life or witness events that act as a trigger. The reaction to a traumatic situation develops in several phases and leads to different consequences depending on the person’s ability to cope with stress, as well as the help and support received. Thus, in the first week after being exposed to a certain environmental trigger, a person may experience disorientation or lose faith in inner power to cope with a hard situation. Further, the crisis phase occurs during which people experience a multitude of feelings with different alternating symptoms. The next step is the resolution phase when a victim copes with his/her grief, loss, guilt, or depression. Finally, the last stage is the recovery phase, which is accompanied by a reassessment and acquisition of a new meaning (Lubit, 2016). Only a small number of survivors of traumatic events can cope with the grave situation. Others will exhibit indications and symptoms that may foreshadow ASD.

Diagnostic Criteria and Symptoms

The diagnosis of ASD is based on several established criteria. Five of them were identified in 2013 by the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Lubit, 2016, Litz, Hundert, & Jordan, 2017). In this regard, the first criterion includes the impact of the injury caused by a tested traumatic event. It can relate to witnessing an incident with others, having learned the news about loved ones, or being forced to learn about disgusting details. The second criterion implies the presence of nine symptoms from such categories as invasion, negative mood, dissociation, avoidance, and arousal (Lubit, 2016, Litz, Hundert, & Jordan, 2017). The symptoms of invasion include disturbing memories and terrible dreams of a traumatic event, dissociative reactions, and psychological disorder of an intense and long-term nature. In turn, a negative mood is associated with a constant lack of positive emotions. Moreover, dissociative symptoms can be accompanied by a change in the sense of reality and inability to recall the main point of a traumatic event. The warning symptoms of this category include the efforts to avoid external reminders of disturbing memories, thoughts, or feelings. Finally, the symptoms of arousal consist of clear physical and psychological indications such as sleep disturbance, concentration, irritability, aggression, and hypervigilance.

In addition to the above-mentioned facts, the third criterion for diagnosing ASD is to assess the duration of disorders and symptoms from the previous category. It means that the diagnosis can be established after three days from the moment of a traumatic event and that ASD can last no more than a month (Lubit, 2016, Litz, Hundert, & Jordan, 2017). Disorders leading to dysfunction in social, occupational or other areas belong to the fourth diagnostic criterion. In the end, the last criterion takes into account the absence of disorders in a victim due to the medical condition or the intake of various physiological substances. Moreover, this diagnostic item excludes the option of the presence of short psychotic disorders resulting from injury (Litz, Hundert, & Jordan, 2017). Thus, ASD is determined by a clinical assessment based on all the above-mentioned diagnostic criteria and symptoms.

Etiology and Epidemiology

The risk of developing ASD depends on the presence of some factors that may be previously observed in people or that they may receive after a traumatic event. In particular, the causes include the loss of a loved one, depressive symptoms for more than a month, numbness and anxiety after an event, previous psychiatric disorders, previous injuries, prolonged exposure to a stressful event, or continuing intoxication (Lubit, 2016). In addition, the likelihood of developing this disease is much greater in cases of severe traumatic events or recurring instances. Moreover, the nature and context of the assessment of the incident are important, which is known to affect the incidence of the acute disorder. Therefore, a greater number of incidents are associated with interpersonal traumatic events. These cases constitute 20–50% and can include assault, violence, or massacres (Lubit, 2016). Fewer ASDs occur in car accidents and minor head injuries. Finally, less than 10% of cases occur as a result of severe burns and industrial accidents (Lubit, 2016). Equally important is the fact that children are often exposed to traumatic events. The data shows that more than two thirds of children under 16 have experienced stressful situations and injuries. In fact, the pace of ASD development varies depending on the type of injury and the level of support they receive later (Kids Matter, n.d.). Thus, the factors considered above significantly increase the risk of ASD in adults and children who have experienced a traumatic event. The severity of ASD also depends on the nature and type of incident and injury.

Consequences, Early Diagnosis, and Treatment

ASD can have various consequences for people who have experienced traumatic events. It can affect the victim’s health in different ways or lead to other diseases. For example, it is known that various types of stress disorders, including also ASD, are associated with the risk of immune dysfunction that may occur later. In one study, the results showed that, with a frequency of 36%, the autoimmune disease appeared in individuals who had a diagnosis of acute stress (Song et al., 2018). Thus, it suggests that stress disorders can affect not only the psychological state of a person but also other areas of health. In addition, the main problem with ASD treatment is that it can be considered as a precursor of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Therefore, if stress lasts more than a month, this may lead to PTSD. In this regard, there is evidence that most people who meet the criteria of ASD have a predisposition and a high probability of developing chronic PTSD (Ursano et al., 2010). Therefore, early diagnosis and identification of persons who are in the risk zone make it possible to intervene and prevent consequences in the initial stages of the disease.

Many survivors of a traumatic event can recover from ASD after they leave a stressful situation and receive the necessary support. Friends and family can provide understanding, sympathy, and compassion that will facilitate their recovery. In the cases of stressful injury in children, parents play a major role in their recovery. Otherwise, victims will need help from doctors, psychologists, or other specialists. With regard to children, treatment programs must be developed in accordance with their developmental needs and certain symptoms (Kids Matter, n.d.). Along with the rest, it is worth considering that while people whose disorders meet the diagnostic criteria of ASD need to be treated, others whose indicators do not meet the criteria of ASD should be monitored to ensure normal recovery (Ursano et al., 2010). Thus, every patient requires adequate programs and approaches to prevention and treatment. Currently, the main tool for detecting ASD is Acute Stress Disorder Structured Interview (ASDI) (Litz, Hundert, & Jordan, 2017). This tool is based on diagnostic criteria and allows healthcare provides to quickly identify people suffering from this disorder and those who are predisposed to the development of PTSD. In general, the main objective of ASD treatment is to reduce the consequences of ASD that are mostly related to the emergence of other diseases that may serve as the triggers other health complications.


In conclusion, ASD is one of the mental disorders associated with an acute stress response to a traumatic event. The occurrence of the disorder has various reasons that allow a person to cope with stress, which subsequently leads to distinct symptoms. An ASD diagnosis is made based on criteria that are defined by the American Association for Psychological Disorders. In addition, several factors can increase the risk of disease. However, the type and nature of injury also play a large role in the development of ASD. Finally, the fact that ASD can lead to other diseases, including autoimmune dysfunction and post-traumatic disorder, explains the need for early diagnosis and identification of individuals suffering from this type of failure. ASDI is considered an excellent tool that enables healthcare providers to address a problem promptly. Regarding treatment, adequate approaches and programs should be designed to reduce the effects of the disorder and ASD-related diseases.

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