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Understanding the Differences Between Acute Stress Disorder and PTSD

It is estimated that at least 70% of adults in the U.S. will experience some type of traumatic event in their lifetime. The term “trauma” is used to describe the physical and psychological symptoms a person feels when put in a situation of extreme stress. While oftentimes these symptoms will go away on their own, for some people, they can develop into short- and long-term mental health disorders such as PTSD or acute stress disorder.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is one of the most widely recognized mental health disorders. It is commonly associated with people who have been subjected to ongoing and severe trauma such as those involved in military combat or who work as a paramedic. There is another type of lesser-known stress-related disorder, however, called acute trauma or acute stress disorder. It’s helpful to understand the differences and similarities between ASD and PTSD, because although they may seem to have many of the same symptoms, there are differences in treatment. 

If you or someone you know has been through a traumatic event, it’s important to know that neglecting your feelings or hoping they will just go away can worsen symptoms and potentially lead to other behavioral health and substance abuse disorders. Early intervention and treatment are necessary in order to achieve a positive recovery outcome. At Blair Wellness Group, we offer trauma treatment and treatment in a confidential and supportive environment. Call today to learn more. 

Characteristics of Acute Stress Disorder 


Acute stress disorder develops immediately following a trauma. While it’s natural for someone who has just been through a traumatic event to have feelings of shock and severe anxiety, those who are diagnosed with acute stress disorder usually have additional symptoms that last for at least three days and up to a month. Some of those symptoms may include:

  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Withdrawal from social activities
  • Trouble relaxing and easily startled
  • Feeling numb or unable to feel happiness or love
  • Flashbacks
  • Nightmares 
  • Avoidance of the people and places associated with the traumatic event

Characteristics of PTSD


Those who have acute stress disorder may develop PTSD over time if they have not sought trauma treatment. While the symptoms of PTSD and acute stress disorder overlap, those with PTSD may have more intense and longer-lasting symptoms. It is also more common for those with ASD to have dissociative symptoms (detaching from reality) while those with PTSD often struggle with intrusive symptoms such as flashbacks and nightmares.

Differences Between PTSD and Acute Stress Disorder


Although they are similar, from a clinical perspective, PTSD and Acute Stress Disorder are two very distinct disorders distinguished by the following:

Onset and Duration of Symptoms: ASD develops immediately following trauma and lasts up to a month. PTSD, on the other hand, is diagnosed when a person experiences symptoms for over a month. It is also important to note that the onset of PTSD symptoms may not occur until weeks, months, or even years after a traumatic event. 

Symptoms Experienced: People with ASD or PTSD can experience similar symptoms, but it is more common for those with ASD to have dissociative and depersonalization symptoms and those with PTSD to have intrusive symptoms.

Trauma Treatment in Beverly Hills, Irvine, and Newport Beach


Learning the difference between acute stress disorder and PTSD can help you better understand what you’re going through if you’ve been exposed to a traumatic event. Although you may have acute stress disorder which is normally short-lived, it’s important to get help from a licensed clinical psychologist as soon as possible in order to avoid its potential progression into  PTSD. 

Get the help you need to cope with what you’ve been through, reduce your symptoms, and feel more like yourself again. Contact Blair Wellness Group for trauma treatment in Los Angeles.

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