Almost 50 percent of Americans experience extreme stress regularly. People have stress for various reasons, from work or even traumas. And unfortunately, excessive stress can lead to many problems, from poor relationships, lost productivity at work, and stress disorders. 

The two most common stress disorders are PTSD and Acute Stress Disorder. Some people may assume that these two trauma-related stress disorders are the same, but they aren’t, as there are slight differences between Acute Stress Disorder and PTSD. Today we will take a look at acute stress disorder vs PTSD and see what those differences are.

But before we dive into Acute Stress Disorder vs PTSD, let’s take a moment to see what experts consider as traumatic events. 


Traumatic Events

First of all, keep in mind that not everyone who goes through a traumatic event will have ASD or PTSD. But the odds of developing ASD or PTSD is higher for those who have experienced a traumatic event. Here are the most common traumatic events:

  • Physical attacks
  • Terrorism 
  • Sexual assault  
  • Torture  
  • Car accidents 
  • Natural disasters 
  • War
  • Death of loved ones
  • Severe injury

Let us now look at what is Acute Stress Disorder. Afterward, we will see how experts diagnose it.


What Is Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)?

Someone can experience Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) days or weeks after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. The symptoms begin within a month of the event’s occurrence and can last anywhere from three days to a month. These are the most common symptoms:

  • Trouble Sleeping
  • Dissociation (sense of separating from one’s self)
  • Hyper-vigilance
  • Flashback scenes
  • Nightmares
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Dissociative amnesia (difficulty remembering several parts from the event)
  • Avoiding anything reminiscent of the trauma
  • Weak concentration

While it’s normal to experience pain to process our trauma experiences, seek help if several of these symptoms last for more than a couple of days. Not everyone who experiences all of these Acute Stress Disorder symptoms means they have ASD. There are specific criteria doctors follow to help diagnose Acute Stress Disorder (ASD).


Diagnosis of Acute Stress Disorder

Acute Stress Disorder in DSM 5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5) states the requirements someone must reach to be diagnosed with Acute Stress Disorder. Let’s take a brief look at the eight criteria.

Criterion A – The person experienced a traumatic event where all of the below mentioned occurred:

The person encountered, saw, or faced an event with the threat of real death or severe injury. The event may also have involved a threat to the person’s or another person’s physical welfare. And the person reacted to the event with intense feelings of anxiety, helplessness, or terror.

Criterion B – The person experiences at least three of the resulting dissociative symptoms:

  • Dissociative amnesia, or being unable to recall significant elements of the traumatic event
  • Feeling confused or not entirely being aware of surroundings
  • Derealization, or feeling people, places, and things are not real
  • Depersonalization or feeling isolated and detached from oneself
  • Feeling numb or indifferent and having challenges experiencing emotions

Criterion C – The person has at least one re-experiencing symptom:

These re-experiencing symptoms include having frequent thoughts, memories, or dreams about the event. Flashbacks are common and will make the person feel as if it were happening again and re-living the traumatic event in some form. 

Criterion D – Avoidance:

The person tries to avoid people, places, or things that remind them of the event. 

Criterion E – Hyperarousal symptoms: 

The person is continuously feeling on guard or nervous, having problems sleeping, difficulties with concentration, or irritability. 

Criterion F – Life is affected:

The symptoms have a tremendous negative impact on the life of the person interfering with work or relationships. 

Criterion G – Length of symptoms:

The symptoms persist for at least two days and last for four weeks. These symptoms also occur within four weeks of undergoing the traumatic event. 

Criterion H – Caused by a traumatic event:

The symptoms are not due to other medical conditions or illnesses. Also, medication or alcohol/drug use is not causing these symptoms. 

Once a doctor has diagnosed ADS, the person may seek help from more specialized centers. These centers implement various treatments that help people cope with Acute Stress Disorder.


What Is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)?

PTSD may occur after a single traumatic event or after experiencing repeated traumas over a long period. PTSD shares many of the same symptoms as an Acute Stress Disorder. But the symptoms or effects of PTSD last a longer time than ASD.


Acute Stress Disorder vs PTSD

As previously mentioned, many if not all of PTSD and ASD symptoms are similar. But there three main differences that stand out concerning the duration, symptoms, and treatments. And these three reasons are what makes PTSD and ASD different.

  • Duration of Symptoms: Symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder remain between three days and four weeks, while symptoms of PTSD need to last for at least a month and may continue for several years
  • Symptoms Experienced: Dissociative symptoms typically characterize Acute Stress Disorder, while PTSD may involve re-experiencing, avoidance, increased arousal, and marked changes in mood and perception.
  • Treatment Options: Short-term psychotherapy and antidepressant medications are most commonly used to address Acute Stress Disorder. In contrast, long-term psychotherapy, medicine, and EMDR therapy can help relieve PTSD symptoms.

Some centers also use therapeutic practices like motivational enhancement, exercise, and yoga. These kinds of treatments will help in bringing peace to someone who has PTSD or ASD.


There Is Help For PTSD and ASD

When talking about acute stress disorder vs PTSD, there are some clear differences. Regardless of which one a person may have, immediate medical and clinical will help them improve. And thanks to further understanding of these disorders, treatments are more effective in treating them.

If a doctor has diagnosed you or someone you know with PTSD or ASD, please contact us. We have a multi-faceted rehabilitation program that evaluates, identifies, and addresses challenges to sustainable improvement. And if you have further questions, don’t hesitate to call us. We are here to help you or your loved one.