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How is Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) Different from PTSD?

Acute stress disorder may develop after a person experiences trauma. Symptoms sometimes develop after a person witnesses an event involving the threat of death, injury, or a physical or sexual assault. Symptoms may worsen after trauma occurs and may last anywhere from three days to one month. The diagnosis of acute stress disorder was established to identify those who may develop PTSD. Find out more about acute stress disorder and PTSD. Find out if a loved one has symptoms of either disorder.

Acute Stress Disorder

Acute stress disorder can be diagnosed when symptoms persist for at least three days. If symptoms persist longer, into a month, the diagnosis changes to post-traumatic stress disorder. Acute stress disorder symptoms fall into five categories: 

  • Involuntary and intrustive memories of the traumatic event
  • Negative mood symptoms
  • Dissociative symptoms
  • Avoidance symptoms
  • Arousal symptoms or not being able to fall asleep or concentrate

People with acute stress disorder may experience guilt for not having been able to prevent trauma. Panic attacks are also common in the month after a trauma. Children with ASD may experience anxiety when separated from caregivers.


When a person experiences trauma, they are at risk for ASD. it is not clear why some people develop it and others don’t. Some people may be at greater risk if they have a previously diagnosed mental health disorder or have an avoidant coping style under stress. The body has built-in physiological responses to stress. When fearful or afraid, the body engages in automatic responses geared toward confronting the threat, freezing up, or fleeing the threat. People are more vigilant after trauma happens towards things that happen to them. The key is to get treatment and reformulate their thoughts on how to navigate it better without negative thoughts and behaviors. 


The treatments for ASD and PTSD typically involve some components like changing thought patterns in cognitive behavioral therapy, psychological debriefing and anxiety management, and psychotropic medication to assist with symptoms of anxiety and high arousal. Additionally, stress-reduction techniques can help like mindfulness and relaxation. This helps people cope with and reduce symptoms of ASD to prevent future occurrences of acute stress disorder.

Guest House provides quality care for clients seeking support for addiction recovery. We help you navigate mental health issues like ASD and PTSD. If you need support, we provide therapy and eidcation to help you navigate healing. For more information about sober living programs for men and women as well as recovery programs, call 855-483-7800.