Acute Stress Disorder

What is Acute Stress Disorder?

Acute stress disorder is a condition that can occur after a person experiences a traumatic event. People with Acute stress disorder may feel like they are in danger, even when they are not. They may also have trouble sleeping, feel irritable or angry, and have difficulty concentrating. Acute stress disorder usually begins within three months of the trauma and lasts for a maximum of four weeks. With treatment, most people with Acute stress disorder improve.

Self-help for Acute Stress Disorder

There are a number of self-help methods that can be helpful for managing Acute stress disorder symptoms. These include:

  • Identifying and avoiding triggers. A trigger is anything—a sight, sound, smell, or thought—that recalls the trauma and brings on symptoms. Avoiding triggers can help reduce anxiety and prevent flashbacks.
  • Managing anxiety with relaxation techniques. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, and visualization can help reduce anxiety.
  • Managing sleep problems. Sleep problems are common after a traumatic event. Taking steps to improve sleep habits can be helpful. This may include avoiding caffeine and alcohol, establishing a regular bedtime routine, and creating a calm and comfortable sleep environment.
  • Eating a healthy diet. Eating nutritious foods and limiting caffeine and alcohol can help reduce anxiety and promote overall well-being.
  • Exercising regularly. Exercise can help reduce stress and improve mood. A moderate amount of exercise is the best approach—too much or too little can actually aggravate symptoms of Acute stress disorder.
  • Connecting with others. Talking about your experiences with friends, family, or a therapist can help you process the trauma and promote healing.
  • Practicing self-compassion. Cut yourself some slack—beating yourself up will only make things worse. Be kind to yourself, and give yourself time to heal.
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