Acute stress disorder (ASD) is a mental health condition that can occur in the immediate aftermath of a traumatic event. It is similar to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but whereas PTSD symptoms may not develop until weeks or months after the event, ASD symptoms typically develop within the first month.
ASD is triggered by exposure to a traumatic event such as a natural disaster, sexual or physical assault, serious accident, or combat. Symptoms of ASD may include intrusive thoughts, nightmares, flashbacks, avoidance of reminders of the event, hyperarousal (e.g. difficulty sleeping, irritability, hypervigilance), dissociation, and impaired functioning in various areas of life.
To be diagnosed with ASD, a person must experience at least three dissociative or re-experiencing symptoms, and at least one avoidance symptom, within one month of the traumatic event. The symptoms must cause significant distress or impairment in functioning.
ASD is usually a temporary condition, with symptoms generally improving within days or weeks without treatment. However, in some cases, ASD can lead to the development of PTSD if the symptoms persist for longer than one month.
Treatment for ASD may involve a combination of medication and psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR). The goal of treatment is to help the person process the traumatic event and develop coping skills to manage symptoms.