After a traumatic event such as serving in combat or losing a limb to injury, survivors may struggle to process their emotions. While acute stress disorder has an immediate onset, post-traumatic stress disorder can have long-lasting, multifaceted effects.
Though anyone can develop acute stress disorder or PTSD, current and former military service members are especially susceptible to these similar conditions because of the unique demands and stressors of a career spent serving their country.
What Causes Acute Stress Disorder and PTSD?
The fight-or-flight response evolved to protect our ancestors from danger. If you perceive a threat, your body and brain initiate a cascade of effects that enable you to escape quickly. Your muscles will tense up, and your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and metabolism will all increase. Though this physiological preparation can be lifesaving, people who have experienced extreme stress or peril may not return to their baseline level.
When something reminds you of the traumatic event, you may enter a state of hyperarousal during which you are constantly alert, on edge and ready to mobilize. The resulting chronic stress can damage your physical and mental health and make you feel like your life is out of control, impacting your ability to relax.
Trauma can make the world seem unsafe, even in comfortable surroundings. Since acute stress disorder and PTSD triggers are unpredictable, you may go out of your way to avoid them, severely curtailing your daily activities. As a result of your experiences, you could enjoy life less.
What Is the Difference Between Acute Stress Disorder and PTSD?
The persistent stress response resulting from a traumatic event happens when you get stuck and can’t process the complex emotions surrounding what you went through. Reliving your trauma over and over in the form of flashbacks, nightmares and intrusive thoughts can be extremely distressing. Some people dissociate or numb the pain with drugs or alcohol.
The primary difference between acute stress disorder and PTSD is the onset and duration of symptoms.
- Acute stress disorder: Severe psychological distress occurs within the first month after a traumatic experience, with symptoms lasting for three days or longer.
- PTSD: PTSD may develop months or even years after the original traumatic event takes place. While PTSD can follow immediately after ASD, it may also develop independently.
Integrated Trauma and Addiction Treatment
If you have acute stress disorder, don’t assume it will go away on its own. Early intervention and treatment might help you prevent the eventual onset of PTSD. Evidence-based therapies can help you overcome trauma and reclaim your life.
At Hope by the Sea, we believe mental health care is essential for the heroes who have served our country so selflessly. That’s why we’ve developed programming tailored to military veterans. Our comprehensive dual-diagnosis services address all aspects of addiction and mental illness for complete, lasting healing. At our patriotic, family-owned California facility, we accept TRICARE and TriWest to make treatment more affordable.
To learn more about our specialized services and how we can help you overcome the combined challenges of trauma and addiction, please reach out to us today.