Traumatic Events

Recovery From Acute Traumatic Stress and Acute Stress Disorder (ASD)

Acute stress disorder (ASD) can be diagnosed only during the first four weeks after direct exposure to a traumatic event. Although many people recover from trauma over relatively short periods, suffering can be intense. The goal of diagnosing ASD is to facilitate early intervention and prevention of PTSD.

Not all individuals with ASD require treatment, and most people who develop PTSD did not initially have ASD; nevertheless, most people who have ASD go on to be diagnosed with PTSD.

Some people who show severe distress after a traumatic event may recover spontaneously, and therefore they do not require therapy. On the other hand, failure to treat ASD could leave individuals with long-term symptoms and at a higher risk for additional problems.

Disturbing reactions to the traumatic event (e.g., thoughts, emotions, body sensations) transform to more adaptive thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations and are stored in new memory networks. This process is posited to result in a transfer of memories and information from implicit (sensory body experiences) to explicit (cognitive) memory systems and from episodic to semantic memory.

Early intervention is preferable because it has the possibility of reducing the development of PTSD and relieving excessive suffering.