Acute Stress Disorder
Being exposed or witnessing a traumatic event can be emotionally overwhelming. Traumatic events involve life threatening situations or serious injury. These include physical or sexual assault, natural disaster, war or a serious accident. The majority of individuals exposed to a traumatic event experience feelings of intense fear, sadness, helplessness, anger or horror in the first days and weeks following the event. In addition, they also try to understand, come to terms with, and make sense of the event that they have survived or witnessed.
Some individuals recover following a traumatic event and get back to their normal lives with the support from their friends and family. However, some don’t recover. They continue to feel distressed and are unable to cope.
Acute stress disorder (ASD) is diagnosed when serious problems occur in the first month after a traumatic incident. These include:
• Dissociative symptoms which include detachment or absence of emotional responsiveness, a reduction in awareness of his or her surroundings, dissociative amnesia, derealisation or depersonalisation.
• The traumatic event is persistently re-experienced through recurrent images, thoughts, dreams, illusions, flashback episodes, or sense of reliving the experience.
• Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event such as places, people, activities, conversations, thoughts or feelings associated with the event.
• Having symptoms of anxiety or increased arousal such as feeling constantly on alert for danger, hypervigilance, being easily startled, being irritable or having angry outbursts, having difficulty sleeping, or difficulty concentrating.
• The disturbance causes significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, day-to-day activities or relationships.
If problems continue to impact on a person’s life for longer than one month, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may be diagnosed. For acute stress disorder and post traumatic stress disorder the definition of traumatic events does not include other stressful and life changing situations such as being retrenched, getting divorced or the death of an ill family member.
If you have been exposed or witnessed a distressing traumatic event and you are having difficulties coping with it, professional assistance can help you to understand your reactions, and helps you to process the distressing experience adequately so that they no longer interferes in your life and you will continue functioning again. At Amicus Counselling and Clinical Psychological Services, we provide evidence-based treatment to help you cope with trauma. Please call 1 800 AMICUS (1 800 264 287) for an appointment.
Amicus Counselling is located at:
Suite 701, Level 7, 105 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Level 1, 65 Hume Street Crows Nest NSW 2065