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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is acute stress disorder?

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    Joe Gubbay

    Clinical Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    I have worked in public hospitals as well as private practice over the past 25 years. As a clinical psychologist I treat depression, social anxiety, … View Profile

    Acute Stress Disorder is similar to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD); they're both an emotional condition triggered by a traumatic event where someone is at risk of serious injury or death (yourself or another person).  The main difference is that Acute Stress Disorder is diagnosed instead of PTSD if it starts within 4 weeks of the trauma, and resolves within 4 weeks.  Other symptoms include dissociation, such as emotional numbing or feeling as if the world isn't real, distressing reliving of the event, avoidance of reminders, and anxiety or increased arousal.  A diagnosis will only be made if the symptoms cause significant distress, or are interfering with normal functioning, such as causing relationship or work problems.  If an Acute Stress Disorder doesn't resolve after 4 weeks, the diagnosis of PTSD might then be made.  If you think you're suffering from Acute Stress Disorder, speak to your GP about psychological therapy which is usually effective.  Sometimes medication will also help; you can discuss that with your GP too.

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