Acute Stress Disorder & Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Following recent events (terror attacks in various places in the UK and around the world), it is pertinent to discuss the subjects of Acute Stress Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  These two conditions fit under the banner of anxiety disorders.

What is ANXIETY?

*       A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome

*       A nervous disorder marked by excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.

*       People may say “She suffered from anxiety attacks” or “He felt a surge of anxiety”

*       Rhyming slang – Joe Blakes

*       There are 5 groupings of anxiety disorders:

  • Panic disorder/attacks
  • Phobias – agoraphobia, social phobia, specific
  • GAD – generalized anxiety disorder
  • OCD – obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Acute stress disorder and PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder

Common Symptoms of ASD and PTSD

*       Both can develop after a distressing, traumatic or catastrophic event

*       Event may involve actual or threatened or serious abuse (sexual or physical or emotional)

*       It may involve witnessing such an event

*       Learning that such an event has happened to a family member or close friend may also be a trigger event

*       Re-experience the trauma – recurrent dreams, flashbacks and intrusive memories

*       Anxiety in situations that bring back memories of the trauma

*       Avoidance behavior (of anything associated with the event)

*       Emotional numbing (for months or years)

*       Reduced interest in others and the outside world

* Persistently increased arousal (watchfulness, irritability, jumpiness/easily startled, outbursts of rage, insomnia

In particular to ASD:

*       The anxiety symptoms/reaction begin to fade

*       The person resumes their normal activities within about a month

In particular to PTSD

*       Symptoms continue longer and impact daily life

*       Diagnosis possible 2 months after the event

*       1 in 10 men and 1 in 5 women develop PTSD after a traumatic event

 What to do to help yourself

*       If symptoms persist go to your GP

*       If it helps to talk, then talk about it (to anyone and everyone). If no one is listening you can also try writing it all down – what happened and how you feel about it. Some people find enormous relief in burning what they have written when they feel ready to let it go.

*       In Hampshire, UK we have a free self-referral psychological therapy service called i-talk – or phone 02380383892

*       If you can afford it get counseling privately

*       If your company has an EAP (employee assistance program) – contact them for help and support

*       Do something, anything to help yourself #changeonething How about checking out the websites on the links below?

What to do to help others including children

*       Let them talk if they want to. Do not force the affected person to talk, if they do not want to – that could re-traumatize them

*       Remember that what they are experiencing is very real to them (even if to you it sounds absurd or even ridiculous). Never brush off or belittle their experiences.

*       Encourage them to get help – offer to take them to their GP

*       Reassure them that they are okay and safe and that what they are experiencing is natural under the circumstances of the trauma

*       There are a lot more suggestions in this article from an American site but the information is really useful:


Trauma is devastating at the time, but there is life after trauma, after acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time and effort to work through or overcome the impact of trauma, but there is always hope and life does return to “normal” in time.


For more information on mental health awareness and training please do contact me.

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