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Acute Stress Disorder

 
 

 What is it?

 

​What is Acute Stress Disorder?

Acute stress disorder can occur after a person has experienced, witnessed or been confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of the person or others.

Disturbing memories of the traumatic event cause an emotional reaction and a sense of reliving the event.

Symptoms start to appear within one month of the traumatic event. Symptoms that occur after a longer period may mean the person has developed
 posttraumatic stress disorder.​

Adapted from Anxiety Disorders: An Information Guide © 2009 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
 

 Symptoms

 

Signs and Symptoms

Cognitive signs may include thoughts such as:

    • “I’m going to be trapped and die in a car crash.”
    • “I’ve escaped being killed once—I won’t be so lucky a second time!”
    • “The world is not safe.”

    Physical symptoms include:

    • restlessness, difficulty sleeping and concentrating
    • exaggerated startle response
    • feeling tense and on edge and/or numb.

    Behavioural symptoms include:

    • avoidance of situations that arouse recollections of trauma
    • intense emotional reaction or absence of emotional responsiveness.

    ​Causes & risk factors

    It is not known exactly why some people who witness or experience traumatic events develop acute stress disorder, while others do not. Research suggests that a number of factors may be involved. Like most mental health problems, acute stress disorder appears to be caused by a combination of biological and psychological factors and challenging life experiences.

    Adapted from Anxiety Disorders: An Information Guide © 2009 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
     

     Treatment

     

    ​Treatment for Acute Stress Disorder

    Experts agree that the most effective form of treatment for acute stress disorders is cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). Medications have also been proven effective, and many people receive CBT and medication in combination.

    For more information about treatment, see Trauma.​

    Adapted from Anxiety Disorders: An Information Guide © 2009 Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
     

     Finding Help

     

    ​Finding Help, Treatment and Support

    Treatment from CAMH

    Help for Families from CAMH

    Ontario Mental Health Helpline​ (open 24/7 for treatment anywhere in Ontario​)

     

     Resources

     
    CAMH Switchboard 416-535-8501
    CAMH General Information Toronto: 416-595-6111 Toll Free: 1-800-463-6273
    Connex Ontario Help Lines
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    Toronto, ON
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    Toronto, ON
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