An Analysis Of Acute Stress Research Paper Sample
Throughout the years, researchers, theologians, psychologists, psychiatrist and even medical doctors have encountered the problem of stress. There are different factors that contribute to the stressful experiences that an individual faces. The treatment of stress has a different impact on each individual who undergo the treatment. Simple unrelated stressful events lead to a more advanced state of stress and leave one with acute stress disorder among other complications. Factors including religion, personality, personal support systems, spirituality, family, and past experiences help the individual to cope with the different stressful events in their lives. The ability to cope with stress depends on the magnitude of the stressor. The reality is that an event that appears to be a minor stressful event for one person may result in an acute stress disorder in another person. Conversely, acute stress disorder can become a threat of death to an individual or another person. The following pages will look summarize and discuss responses to acute stress. Additionally, it will address and discuss the different symptoms that associated with acute stress reactions and acute stress disorder, the diagnostic guidelines, and effective treatment strategies for acute stress disorders. The researches will come from a number of credible journals, books, and scholarly reviews of acute stress disorders as well as the spiritual and professional treatments of this disorder.
Key Words: acute stress disorder, stress
With the many changes to the way people live and embrace technology, comes the events that add stress to one’s life. The reality is that experiences create some form of stress in the individual’s life. Job losses, divorce, marriage, and being a victim of crime all represent stressful experience. Complicated medical conditions add stress to the lives of the patient and the patient’s family. The truth is that a number of parents suffer acute stress disorders because their children have severe medical conditions. In fact “there are few human conditions that are so diversely described as stress, crisis, and trauma,” (Yeager & Roberts, 2003, p. 2). These conditions lead to “a downward spiral culminating in physical and emotional consequences of tremendous proportion,” (Yeager & Roberts, 2003, p. 3). Conversely, crisis triggers the acute stress reaction in an individual. Traumatic events including acts of terrorism, rape, or murder which become a traumatic event, but does not necessarily lead to an acute stress reaction.
According to Gibson, the Acute Stress Disorder forms part of the psychiatric diagnosis that came about under the DSM-IV in 1994, (Gibson, 2015). Still, many individuals cannot are unable to differentiate between acute stress disorder and other forms of stress disorders. Gibson adds clarity to the definition with the explanation that the contemporary diagnostic criterion for ASD bears a strong similarity to the criteria for PTSD, (Gibson, 2015) even though the criterion for ASD places more emphasis on the dissociative symptoms, (Gibson, 2015). Still, the diagnosis can only be made during the first month following a traumatic event,” (Gibson, 2015). But, the idea of including Acute Stress Disorder as a part of the DSM-IV did not come through extensive research,” (Gibson, 2015, par. 1). Still, numerous debates continue to surface as a result of deciding whether the diagnostic criteria is accurate in its presentation of the pathological reactions that one has to traumatic events within the first month following the trauma, (Gibson, 2015, par. 1). As such, one sees acute stress as a result of “specific events or situations that involve novelty, unpredictability, a threat to the ego,” (Understand Your Stress, 2015) and results in the individuals losing control of the situation.
Bryant et al postulates that Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) was introduced in DSM-IV because it was a new diagnosis that adds clarity to the notion of acute stress reactions (ASRs), (Bryant, et.al 2010) as precedence to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Additionally, there is at least one symptom in Acute Stress Disorder that is common to Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and as such most researchers combine the study of Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic disorder to find ways to deal with these disorders. In Acute Stress Disorder, the traumatic event that the individual experiences reappears and the individuals face the first obstacle of trying to deal with the disorder on many occasions. There are often the recurrent memories of the traumatic experience though conscious thoughts and dreams, (Psych Central, 2014). In addition, there is the constant reminder of the traumatic experiences through people and places which results in an exaggerated or starling response and difficulty sleeping.
Studies show that acute stress is likely the most widespread type of stress. In fact, acute stress arises “from demands and pressures of the recent past and anticipated demands and pressures of the near future,” (Stress: The Different Kinds of Stress, 2015). Additionally, “acute stress is thrilling and exciting in small doses, but too much is exhausting,” (Stress: The Different Kinds of Stress, 2015). Nonetheless, the symptoms of acute stress are clear to a number of individuals. The fact that acute stress occurs on a short-term basis, there is a limited window of opportunity for acute stress to cause any form of far-reaching damage that comes with long-term stress. The fundamental symptoms of acute stress are: emotional distress which includes irritability and anger and depression and anxiety; muscular problems that include back pain, jaw pain, tension headache, and muscular tensions that result in pulled muscles, ligament problems and pulled tendons; and stomach, gut, and bowel related problems including acid stomach, heartburn, diarrhea, flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome, and constipation.
Interestingly, acute stress occurs in anyone’s life at any given time, but the good thing is that it can be treated and managed. Still, there are more chaotic moments in some person’s lives that allows them to suffer from acute stress more frequently than others. Arguably, it’s the disorder in these individuals’ lives that lead to the crisis and chaos that cause acute stress. These individuals are in a hurry to complete the daily tasks, yet they are always late. As a result, these individuals find that everything always goes wrong in their lives and they suffer acute stress disorders. Furthermore, it is quite common for individuals who suffer from acute stress reactions to become irritable, short-tempered, and tense. Individuals who suffer through acute stress reactions to stimuli in the environment are abrupt and in many cases, hostile towards those they encounter. Interpersonal relationships often suffer as they decline rapidly when acute stressed individuals become hostile. But, individuals experience stress in different ways. Sarason and Sarason indicate that an individual’s vulnerability to stress depends largely on the temperament of the individual, coping skills, and available social support,” (Sarason & Sarason, 1999).
A simple stressful event can lead to acute stress disorder and in turn lead to episodic stress disorders as the competitive nature of these individuals lead to aggressiveness and impatience. The episodes of acute stress leads to incessant worrying and results in catastrophic moments. Psychologists classify some stressed individuals as "Worry warts" and “awfulizers” as they see impending doom in their daily activities. The “awfulizers” are overly aroused and apprehensive. Nonetheless, they can become depressed and anxious instead of antagonistic or angry. The signs of one episodic acute stress are numerous, but the most common forms include migraines, chest pain and heart diseases. In treating episodic acute stress there is the need for intervention of professional counselors.
In contrast to simple acute stress, the treatment for episodic acute stress takes place over an extended period as these individuals are more likely to blame others for the chaos in their lives, rather than take personal responsibility for their actions. Bryant’s study reiterates the idea that there are other related stress outcomes of acute stress disorder. The of the said study shows: “For each study, capacity of the acute stress disorder diagnosis to predict PTSD was calculated in terms of sensitivity, specificity, and positive and negative predictive power,” (Bryant, 2011) and shows that sub-syndromal acute stress disorder and be used to analyze and calculate cases that initially satisfied subsyndromal acute stress disorder criteria,” (Bryant, 2011).
Kenny defines acute stress reaction as a reaction to stimuli that develops rapidly and leads to stressful events, (Kenny, 2013). The symptoms disappear rapidly and in many cases acute stress reaction does not require treatment and are “marked by symptoms of dissociation that include a subjective sense of numbness, detachment, and absence of emotional responsiveness,” (Sarason & Sarason, 1999). Nonetheless, some psychologists employed talking therapy as a way of helping individuals with acute stress reaction. Arguably, “an acute stress reaction occurs when symptoms develop due to a particularly stressful event,” (Kenny, 2013). Acute refers to the symptoms that develop rapidly, but are not long-lasting. The events that lead to acute stress reactions are generally very serious, and in most cases occur after traumatic or a life crisis that was not anticipated. These events are usually fatal or life-threatening accidents, or grief and bereavement. It is the suddenness of the event that causes one to suffer a stress reaction.
The symptoms of acute stress reaction vary according to the particular individual as “one group of mental processes seems to become separated from the rest,” (Sarason & Sarason, 1999). Additionally, the reaction time to the events also differs according to the specific individual. Nonetheless, these brief encounters last for hours or days or even weeks. The symptoms associated with acute stress reactions include “psychological symptoms such as anxiety, low mood, irritability, and emotional ups and downs, poor sleep, poor concentration, wanting to be alone,” (Kenny, 2013). In addition, Kenny suggests that the symptoms include: “recurrent dreams or flashbacks, which can be intrusive and unpleasant; avoidance of anything that will trigger memories,” (Kenny, 2013). The latter symptom is probably the easiest to recognize as the individual clearly steers away from others who remind them of the painful episode. Reckless and in many cases aggression, become a common element in the moment and leads to self-destructive behaviors. In other instances, the symptoms are more physical in terms palpitations, headaches, chest pains, abdominal pains, difficulty breathing, and nausea, as they arise from the increase in the adrenaline level in the body.
The treatment for acute stress disorder is quite simple as many individuals do not require much treatment as they can easily talk about the experience with friends and family members and alleviates their problems. But, there are those individuals who require long-term treatment because they have symptoms. Therapist use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to treat those with long – term symptoms of acute stress reaction and acute stress disorder. This type of therapy is based on talking through the experiences that trigger the behavior. The role of the therapist is to help the client to understand and deal with the problem or the patterns that lead to these problems. Specifically, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy forces the client to identify the harmful behaviors that lead to destructive thoughts and ideas and change the thought patterns so as to avoid the ideas in a realistic way. When therapists use this method to treat acute stress reaction, it is referred to as Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Counseling is one of the final possibilities when treating both acute stress reaction and acute stress disorder when they advance to a severe and persistent stage. Individual counseling helps the stressed individual to explore different way of dealing with the factors and the symptoms of stress. Christian counseling is one effective way to deal with stressful events as the spiritual healing of one’s mind is necessary for the holistic development of the individual. Gibson reiterates the views that cognitive behavioral interventions that occur during the acute after effects of exposure to trauma yielded the most consistently and positive results in terms of preventing subsequent posttraumatic psychopathology, (Gibson, 2015,). Gibson’s ideas were grounded in the results of his study that shows that approximately four of every five randomized clinical trials occurring within the acute repercussion of trauma showed that Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is more likely to reduce of Post Traumatic Stress Disorders, (Gibson, 2015).
With this in mind, one can argue accurately that acute stress reaction leads to more serious stress related events which can be life – threatening. Therefore, it is important that individuals become aware of the factors that impact the level of stress in one’s life and find ways to improve or remove the factors that cause stress in one’s life. Gibson refers to Bryant and his colleagues’ specific studies that speak directly to the assessment and treatment of Acute Stress Disorder, (Gibson, 2015). These studies show that a concise cognitive behavioral treatment revolutionizes Acute Stress Disorder and prevents further development of stress related problems. While stress may sound like a relatively simple problem, the adverse effects of stress on any level cause serious problems for individuals.
The medical problems that stem from stress leads to death as the individuals face heart related problems. As a result, medical treatment is sometimes administered to individuals who suffer from acute stress disorder. Beta-blocker is the most common medical treatment that is administered to the individual who suffers from acute stress disorder as it releases the stress hormones and they are not addictive or affects the normal functions of the body. On the other hand, medical doctors will reluctantly prescribe diazepam as a benzodiazepine tranquillizer for short periods of time. Diazepam is addictive, but loses its desire effect when one becomes addicted to the drug.
While there are limited researches on the treatment of Acute Stress Disorder, Cahill et. al suggest that the use of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy offers the elements of imaginal and in-vivo exposure along with the use of anxiety management training as an effective way to treat the disorder, (Cahill, et al, 2005). Additionally, the benefits of these treatments require and maintain follow up treatments, but must also be combined to give the full benefits of the treatment to the patient. One of the most important factors to note in treating individuals with Acute Stress Reaction or Acute Stress Disorder is that the early treatments of the disorder are more effective than waiting for lengthy periods to administer the treatment.
Medical and counseling treatments form a part of the much needed treatment for Acute Stress Disorder even though the disorder has been placed under the Trauma and Stress Related Disorders in the DSM V. The Australian Guidelines for the Treatment of Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder revealed that an individual suffering from Acute Stress Disorder needs a required number of symptoms form the broad list of dissociative, re-experiencing, arousal or avoidance symptoms that the disorder is conceptualized as an acute stress response that does not require a specific symptom cluster, (Promoting Recovery after Trauma, 2013). Either way, the problem of Acute Stress disorder is one that impacts the victims along with their families. In order for the society to grow, there must be a holistic approach to any treatment of the disorder.
But, in spite of the medical and counseling treatment, acute stress disorder is best treat with spiritual healing. Thoresen postulates that the role of spiritual and religious factors in health yields positive and intriguing results, (Thorensen, 1999). In fact, research shows that there are unswerving positive relationships among the mental health, physical health, and substance abuse outcomes, (Thorensen, 1999). Nonetheless, a number of critical atheist would suggest otherwise as “some spiritual or religious factors, however, have failed in some studies to demonstrate significant outcomes,” (Thorensen, 1999). The harsh reality is that in a traumatic experience, one must embrace the treatment in order for the treatment to be effective. As with any form of treatment, the need to deal with the traumatic experience is of paramount importance. If the trauma victim does not believe that the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, then the patient will block the sessions and the experiences that must be dealt with in order to effect changes. Similarly, if the religious based therapy is not accepted by the patient, then it will not work effectively.
Strauss and Lang point out that stress disorders require complementary and alternative treatments that are not based on the standard practice of Western medicine, (Strauss & Lang, 2012). The complementary treatments are different from the alternative treatment but they can effectively work to enhance the negative experiences of trauma. A number of religious groups use meditation as a means of removing negative thoughts from the mind. Could this treatment possibly work in the Western World? There is no question here as meditation in particular allows the individual to go to an ideal world in the mind and remove the negative energies that flow in the body. It also helps the individual to refocus on the issues that are most important to the development of positive thoughts and ideas.
In addition to meditation, prayer offers a way of finding comfort in the Supreme Being. The fact is that for one to be truly at peace with one’s inner self, one must reach out in prayer to find comfort. This belief in prayer leads to the idea of acceptance and commitment as a therapeutic method to treating therapy. Imagine a mother driving a car and having an accident. The child dies in the accident and the mother lives. Undoubtedly, the moment of self-blame stands firm in the mother’s mind at all times. There is no amount of medication and talking sessions that can help this devastated mother. Hence, the need for acceptance in the fact that there is a Grand Design and that the mother is not responsible for the accident becomes great. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy would be most ideal in this situation as the mother accepts that the blame is not hers and commits self to accepting that fate and destiny help to shape the future. On the other hand, the said mother finds that it is difficult to sleep at nights as the dreams of the accidents haunt her every moment. A brief treatment of diazepam would definitely help until the mother learns to talk about the painful memories and accept the circumstances.
Stress in any form comes with the negative emotional experiences that are directly and indirectly associated with behavioral physiological and biochemical changes that are associated with acute or chronic challenges. In essence one cannot reasonably argue for the effectiveness of the treatment in Acute Stress Disorder as the effectiveness and results stem from the patient’s willingness to accept the prescribed treatment. A devout Christian will find comfort in the words of the Bible and find solace in the word of God, while a non-believer is more likely to gravitate towards the medical – based or therapy based approach to Acute Stress Disorder. Arguably, family and other support groups are important to the traumatic experiences. Every trauma victim needs to know that there is some who will support them in their time of grief. Personally, the need to combine all these treatment in one is the best way to deal with any form of trauma. The reality is that traumatic events leave victims with the greatest problem of having loss “something.” For some, the loss may be greater than other in terms of life or limb, but a loss is still a loss despite the magnitude of the loss. Hence, the traumatic experiences are similar in many respects.
Bryant, Richard (PhD) (2011) Acute Stress Disorder as a Predictor of Posttraumatic Stress
Disorder: A Systematic Review J Clin Psychiatry 2011;72 (2):233-239,
Bryant, Richard et,al (2010) “Depression And Anxiety 0 : 1–16 (2010) A Review of Acute Stress
Disorder in DSM-5: DOI 10.1002/da.20737
Cahill, S. P., Pontoski, K., & D’Olio, C. M. (2005). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Acute
Stress Disorder II: Considerations for Treatment and Prevention. Psychiatry
(Edgmont), 2(9), 34–46.
Gibson, Laura E., (2015) PTSD: National Center for PTSD Acute Stress Disorder
Promoting Recovery after Trauma, Australian Center for Posttraumatic Mental Health (2013),
Australia, Print, ISBN 978-0-975-2246-0-1
Psych Central. (2014). Acute Stress Disorder Symptoms. Psych Central.
Sarason, Irwin G. & Sarason, Barbara R. Abnormal Psychology – The Problem of Maladaptive
Behavior Tenth Edition, Pearson Education, New Jersey, (NJ) pp, 125 Print. ISBN 0-13-
Strauss, Jennifer L. & Ariel Lang, (2012) Complementary and Alternative Treatment for PTSD,
Volume 23/NO. 2 • ISSN: 1050-1835 Published by: National Center for PTSDVA
Medical Center (116D)
Stress: The Different Kinds of Stress, Adapted from the Stress Solution by Lyle H. Miller, PhD,
and Alma Dell Smith, PhD , 2015 American Psychological Association
Thoresen, Carl E., (1999) Spirituality and Health Is There a Relationship? Stanford University,
USA, doi: 10.1177/135910539900400314J Health Psychol May 1999 vol. 4 no. 3 291-
Understand Your Stress: Acute vs. chronic stress, (2015) Chair on Mental Health, IRC
Yeager, Kenneth R., & Roberts Albert R., (2003) Differentiating Among Stress, Acute Stress
Disorder, Crisis Episodes, Trauma, and PTSD: Paradigm and Treatment Goals, Oxford University Press