Acute Stress Disorder

Acute stress disorder is an initial state of shock we experience when we are... well, shocked!

Most people have had the feeling or said: "I'm completely shocked", and noticed that they are not actually capable of doing much else that saying that. This is because our nervous system fires signals all over our body here and there but not producing any physical reaction. The result is the kind of numbness or failure to act upon the stress.

In most cases, this is completely harmless - it is simply just a lack of actions to take; but sometimes acute stress disorder can cause more severe disorders such as stress related diseases or worsening of a preexisting condition.

What Happens?

Normally when you have an acute stress disorder - all the normal signs of stress and the effects of stress can be seen, however not necessarily as severe.

The event should not scare you too much: Remember that stress is natural, and what is happening is just the initial response of one kind of stress. Learn more about acute stress disorder by seeing the effects of stress.

Most people experience:

  • Increased heart rate (your pulse is faster)
  • Increased blood pressure (your heart pumps harder)
  • Instant sweating and feeling warm
  • Muscle tension (this is what can be felt as numbness)

When Does it Happen?

Stress makes us do things all the time - it is a trigger for active behavior: So most people experience several responses to stress every day.

However, it is not every day that you feel "stomped" by something and usually it is emotional responses that trigger the disorder.

With that said; nobody can say exactly when you may have an acute stress response in your life. Most people can, however, remember if they have had one:

Some years ago I was waiting in line to get some concert tickets. It was a hot day and we had been waiting several hours outside. Suddenly a young man (maybe 16-17) passed out behind me - probably from dehydration and standing incorrectly. I only saw him falling into the hedge right next to us. My response to the situation?... Nothing. I just stood there looking at him! Sure I knew that I was fully capable of helping this person but I was unable actually to do anything. The boy was alright and help came quickly - and I learned something about myself that day.

That is the strongest reaction I have ever felt. But that does not mean that the acute stress disorder only comes from highly traumatic events.

I would say that before any event that depends on performance there is some kind of acute disorder. Like a field goal kick, a gymnastics session, a job interview, and the list goes on...

If you have an acute stress disorder; then remember that it is normally temporary and not dangerous.

And the best advice is to learn from the experience. Don't get scared of the situation in the future; learn to know when to anticipate the response. That will help you deal with stress more efficiently in the future.

If you are feeling more severe signs of stress attacks you might have an anxiety attack or panic attacks, click here to read more.