Having Acute Stress Disorder can be very frustrating. You have been through something terrible, you don’t feel like yourself, and, you want to get back to your normal life. The problem is, your regular coping skills are not working. A person may develop Acute Stress Disorder if they:
have experienced actual or threatened death or serious injury have witnessed actual or threatened death or serious injury of another person.
We tend to associate Acute Stress Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder with people who have been in wars. However, life-changing traumatic events can occur anywhere and include: car accidents, severe weather such as hurricanes and tornadoes, and violent crimes such as robbery, rape, and murder. If you have experienced the stress of a traumatic event, you might experience the symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder. These symptoms include:
- feeling numb, detached
- lack of emotions
- being in a daze, not really aware of the surroundings
- familiar things seem strange
- unable to recall important events related to the trauma
- thoughts, dreams, and/or flashbacks of the trauma
- avoiding anything that might remind them of the trauma
- easily startled
- problems with sleeping and eating
- increased attention to safety: constantly checking locks and doors
- the person has trouble doing normal or routine things
These symptoms will normally last from a few days to a few weeks. If the symptoms last longer than one month, the Acute Stress Disorder may have become Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. People with Acute Stress Disorder also have a real sense of dissociation (feeling numb, out of body, in a fog, etc.), which may or may not be present in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Some people get through a trauma without experiencing many side-effects, while others devleop Acude Stress Disorder.
If you have several of the following factors, you are more likely to develop Acute Stress Disorder:
- high stress levels prior to the trauma
- lack of good support systems
- the trauma is unexpected
- there is a history of trauma
- the trauma was very grotesque
- your individual coping style and personality can contribute to Acute Stress Disorder
Even though most people who have experienced a trauma don’t want to think about or talk about the trauma, talking is one of the best ways to heal. Find a therapist in your area that specializes in trauma or anxiety issues. A therapist will help you talk about what you have experienced. Additionally, some therapists provide Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) or hypnotherapy, both specialized treatments that can be very useful for treating trauma. Support groups can be helpful to share your own experience and hear the stories of others who have had similar experiences. Some people seek medical help and find anti-depressants and/or anti-anxiety medications helpful in treating the symptoms.
You can recover from your trauma. The first step is to recognize that you have been through something very difficult, that your symptoms are a normal response to trauma, and that help is available.