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Treatment of acute stress disorder in adults

Richard Bryant, PhD
Section Editor
Murray B Stein, MD, MPH
Deputy Editor
Richard Hermann, MD


Acute stress disorder (ASD) is characterized by acute stress reactions that may occur in the initial month after a person is exposed to a traumatic event. The disorder includes symptoms of intrusion, dissociation, negative mood, avoidance, and arousal. Some patients who experience ASD go on to experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is diagnosed only after four weeks following exposure to trauma.

Treatment for ASD is aimed at curtailing symptoms of acute stress responses and preventing their development into PTSD.

The treatment of ASD is discussed here. The epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, course, and diagnosis of ASD are discussed separately. The epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, course, diagnosis, and treatment of PTSD are also discussed separately. (See "Acute stress disorder in adults: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, course, and diagnosis" and "Posttraumatic stress disorder in adults: Epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, course, and diagnosis" and "Pharmacotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder in adults" and "Psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder in adults".)


First-line treatment for acute stress disorder (ASD) is trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which has been shown to reduce the likelihood of subsequently developing PTSD. Short-term use of a benzodiazepine may be useful for reducing acute arousal and sleep disturbance. Treatment of acute stress disorder is also addressed in trials of interventions to prevent PTSD. (See "Pharmacotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder in adults" and "Psychotherapy for posttraumatic stress disorder in adults", section on 'Prevention'.)

A proportion of people with ASD will adapt without formal intervention (between one half to one quarter of people with ASD) [1].


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Jan 17, 2014.
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