Acute Stress Disorder is distinguished from other conditions by the development of characteristic anxiety and/or dissociative symptoms during or immediately after experiencing a traumatic event.  This event is nearly always one in which the individual experienced or witnessed serious injury or physical threat to himself or others. There may be, in the person with Acute Stress Disorder, an absence of emotional responsiveness and he may have difficulty experiencing pleasure in activities that were previously enjoyable.




After or during the exposure to a traumatic event, the individual experience three or more of the following dissociative symptoms:

  • a subjective sense of numbing, detachment, or absence of emotional responsiveness
  • a reduction in awareness of his surroundings (e.g., being in a daze)
  • derealization
  • depersonalization
  • dissociative amnesia (i.e., inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma)


Causes / Characteristics


Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) is caused by experiencing a severe traumatic experience, resulting in anxiety and dissociative symptoms. Symptoms last at least two days and do not persist longer then four weeks. Adults with ASD often have difficulty concentrating, feel detached from their bodies, and have difficulty recalling details from the traumatic event. At first, recurrent thoughts, dreams, and images of the traumatic event occur. Then individuals begin to avoid reminders of the traumatic experience (e.g., people, places, things). Finally, the person experiences feelings of anxiety which may cause him to have sleep problems, poor concentration, and motor restlessness.

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