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Can Treatment for Acute Stress Disorder Prevent PTSD?

When a person goes through trauma, they may experience several lingering symptoms. Acute stress disorder is a condition where a person experiences categories of symptoms, including intrusive thoughts about the trauma, avoidance, dissociation, and anxiety.

These symptoms must be severe enough to disrupt day-to-day functioning. They also occur between three days and one month after a traumatic event. Clinicians can use the acute stress disorder scale (ASDS) after an individual experiences trauma in order to evaluate whether someone has this trauma disorder.

The Connection Between Acute Stress Disorder and PTSD

Though it isn’t a foolproof detection method, a diagnosis of acute stress disorder can indicate a high chance of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The conditions include nearly the same symptoms, except that PTSD happens one month or more after the incident. Also, the symptoms last at least one month. In delayed onset PTSD, the full range of symptoms can appear six-plus months after the trauma.

Preventing PTSD

One meta-analysis indicates that some treatments for acute stress disorder can prevent people from forming PTSD. A meta-analysis published in Behaviour Research and Therapy looked at the effect of trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TFCBT) on preventing chronic PTSD.

This study evaluated data from ten studies. TFCBT treatment between the traumatic incident and three months can decrease the incidents of chronic PTSD by 54%. Additionally, it can decrease depressive trauma symptoms from 27-45%.

Unfortunately, this meta-analysis only looked at traumas caused by accidents and physical assault. As such, further research is necessary to see if it is effective with other forms of trauma. Based on the meta-analysis, we can speculate that treating acute stress disorder with TFCBT can help prevent the formation of PTSD.

Treatments That Worsen PTSD Development

On the other hand, according to an article in the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, it can actively harm people to use other common acute stress disorder treatments. Psychological debriefing is a practice in which a person retells their trauma in detail and discusses their distressing symptoms. Though it’s well-intentioned, this practice can harm people. It can increase distressing symptoms and isn’t recommended.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a difficult condition initiated by trauma. The condition can only be diagnosed one month after the initial event. Prior to the one-month mark, symptoms fall into a diagnosis called acute stress disorder. By treating acute stress disorder with trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TFCBT), clinicians can decrease the cases of PTSD. At The Guest House, we’re specialized in trauma-informed treatment. We can offer you individual psychotherapy, group therapy, and holistic therapies that set you on the path to healing as soon as possible. Reach out to us at (855) 483-7800 for help.