Acute Stress Reaction

Acute Stress Reaction (ASR), also referred to as shock or Acute Stress Disorder (ASD), is a variation on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).


ASR can often escalate to ASD. Symptoms of acute stress reaction include a change in attention, disorientation, daze and confusion. After these symptoms occur, victims suffering from ASR can often become withdrawn from their surroundings or experience panic anxiety paired with impairment and extreme emotions of sadness, anger and fear. These symptoms last for usually two to three days after the feeling of ‘intense helplessness’ is felt.

ASD is different because its symptoms last anywhere from two days to four weeks after the event. The symptoms, on the other hand, are similar but include detachment, re-experience, and amnesia.


ASR and ASD are caused by moments of “intense helplessness” and are the body’s reactions towards those feelings. These events usually end with the perception of pain, both emotional and physical, being forced upon someone whether it is witnessed firsthand or as an onlooker.


Because this disorder is caused by a life experience, counseling is an option to cope with the event. Although this is true and somewhat effective, it has been shown that exposure (“imaginal” and “in vivo”), relaxation and also cognitive behavioral therapy exercises like restructuring.

For a small amount of time (i.e. four weeks maximum), a prescription can be filled for medication to cope with the event, the disorder and its symptoms.

In some cases, this disorder may work itself out over time although in other cases, it can escalate to a more extreme disorder such as PTSD.

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