Guide To Treating Acute Stress Disorder

Individuals who have experienced a traumatic event may be at risk for developing an acute stress disorder. This condition typically affects individuals who have witnessed an event or been part of a traumatic event. Essentially, any event that inspires severe emotions of fear, helplessness, and horror can lead to developing an acute stress disorder.

The symptoms are usually disassociative in nature. Individuals may feel numb or detached. They may even be unable to remember the event itself. Or, similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, individuals may revisit the event psychologically. There are a few ways to treat acute stress disorder. Learn about them now.

Individual Psychiatric Evaluation

Before a proper treatment can be administered, it is critical for patients to first be evaluated by a psychiatrist. They will determine the severity of the patient's acute stress disorder. This individual psychiatric evaluation has a few different factors to it and makes up just one part of many other mental tests patients may be given. Initially, the psychiatrist will examine the patient's appearance, as this can help determine the overall state of their physical health this way. Eye contact is another avenue they'll test patients in. Patients will also be tested for orientation, meaning if patients can tell who they are, where they are, and what time it is. This can be difficult for individuals who keep reliving the traumatic event. The same goes for memory, which will also be tested to determine more information regarding acute stress disorder.

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Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Sessions

One of the treatment options psychiatrists and doctors might suggest is cognitive behavioral therapy. This is a bridging of two different therapy treatments: cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy. Cognitive therapy revolves around mood and the thoughts patients have while behavioral therapy focuses on actions and behaviors. With cognitive behavioral therapy, the psychiatrist will work with patients to find a more balanced and constructive way of dealing with stressors. By doing so, it can limit the negative response patients have to those stressors. In a structured setting, the therapist will go over certain situations or triggers that lead patients to experience acute stress disorder symptoms. Through careful and consistent re-training, patients can slowly begin to develop new patterns of thoughts and behavior towards those stressors and triggers that result in a constructive reaction rather than one linked to acute stress disorder. It is common for therapists to ask patients to keep a journal. This can be used to identify triggers more easily.

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Use Of Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy is a procedure that has been performed for hundreds of years. In the United States, it has ebbed and flowed in terms of popularity. While the effectiveness of the treatment is largely up to the individual, it has been shown to help enough to be considered a viable treatment for individuals who suffer from an acute stress disorder. This is because it aids with two different things. The first is it helps train the awareness level of the individual. With that focus and awareness, they can gain control over certain patterns of behavior. In the case of acute stress disorder, an individual can become aware when they are disassociating or becoming anxious in response to a trigger or stressor and work to respond differently. The second way in which it helps is it can place the individual into a relaxed state where they can talk openly about their feelings and experiences.

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Medication To Relieve Symptoms

While acute stress disorder can last anywhere from three days to a few months, the symptoms can sometimes be quite severe. As mentioned earlier, disassociating from one's surroundings is a staple for patients who suffer from an acute stress disorder. It is also common for them to deal with anxiety or panic attacks when they are met with a trigger or if they revisit the traumatic event mentally. Besides just therapy to work through the connections and behaviors in the mind, they might also be given medication to relieve symptoms. One of the most popular choices is an antianxiety medication. As its name might suggest, this medication works to calm the agitated state of the mind and induce feelings of peace and relaxation instead. Another popular medication prescribed to treat acute stress disorder is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. While these are typically used for individuals who suffer from depression, they can also help acute stress disorder patients because it relaxes them.

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Exposure Therapy

One last method to treat acute stress disorder is to undergo exposure therapy. Perhaps one of the more extreme measures, this form of therapy is often associated with anxiety disorders. The idea behind it is to expose an individual to their triggers in a safe environment where no danger can befall them. With enough exposure, they no longer associate that trigger with fear. Instead, their brain is rewired to understand the trigger will not harm them. In regards to acute stress disorder, exposure therapy can reintroduce them to the triggers associated with the traumatic event. By breaking these triggers down into small challenges for them to slowly become used to and realize they're not in danger of, patients can create new behaviors to those triggers. Since this form of therapy can sometimes seem extreme, it is also important to know the patient can stop the procedure at any time.