Acute stress disorder (ASD) is an anxiety disorder that may develop, weeks after experiencing or being confronted with one or more traumatic event. In other words, it can be said to be the development of severe anxiety dissociation, and other symptoms that occur within one month after exposure to a traumatic stressor.
When people develop this illness, they find it very difficult to concentrate. In addition, they also feel detached from their body and experience the world as unreal or dreamlike. And recalling specific details of the traumatic event can be difficult as well.
Events that can lead to acute stress disorder include: Threat of death, witnessing the death of a beloved, witnessing or experiencing a serious accident, rape, war, natural disaster,
Symptoms of acute stress disorder are
- Fear: Patients with acute stress disorder usually experience a déjà vu of the traumatic event that led to the illness. They tend to scream, cry, shiver, and experience a nervous breakdown.
- Derealisation: Most patients with acute stress disorder lose their sense of awareness as a result of the illness. As a result, they find it difficult to recognise their surroundings. To them, nothing looks real anymore, as everything seems to be veiled.
- Depersonalisation: Just like derealisation, the patient loses awareness of self and the possibility to control thoughts and emotions becomes impossible.
Here there’s a detachment within the self regarding one’s mind or body, or being a detached observer of oneself. Patients usually feel they have changed and that the world has become vague, dreamlike, less real, or lacking in significance.
- Dissociative amnesia: Dissociative amnesia is said to occur when the patient cannot remember one or more important aspects of the traumatic event.
- Mood swing: Although mood swing is not limited to the only patient of ASD, it cannot be overlooked, either.
Just like people who suffer from mood swing, a patient with acute stress disorder tend to change their mood without them being aware it. They’re often stuck in sadness, as fear becomes a part of them.
How to manage acute stress disorder
- Try to encourage contact with loved ones, as this may serve as a source of psychological support to the patient.
- Find a suitable way to discuss the experience with patients who want to talk about it. But avoid pressuring those who do not wish to discuss it.
- Avoid prompting discussion of issues that cannot be resolved; avoid abreaction in groups and the resulting contagion effect; respect defenses, and do not force reality on people who cannot handle it yet. And you should keep in mind that debriefing may be harmful.
- You can support self-esteem by helping patients understand that their reaction to the trauma is a normal reaction to an abnormal situation. Make them understand that it is not a sign of weakness.
- Trust the natural process of healing.