Acute Stress Disorder is similar to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (see previous page). In both cases the victim experiences a traumatic event involving death or a threat of death or serious physical injury or a threat to the physical integrity of the individual involved or to others. The person in question reacts to the event with intense fear, feelings of impotence and horror. Persistently reliving the trauma, avoidance of stimuli that may be reminiscent of the traumatic event and symptoms of increased physiological activation are other presenting factors.

The only differences with respect to PTSD are the duration of the symptoms and the presence of dissociative symptoms (see Dissociative Disorders). Acute Stress Disorder is in fact characterised by a duration varying from just a few days to about one month, while PTSD lasts longer. Acute Stress Disorder also presents dissociative symptoms such as dissociative amnesia, dissociative fugue, depersonalization and derealization.

Dissociative amnesia is characterised by the presence of episodes during which the individual is unable to recall important personal data, including a traumatic episode or event. The duration of the symptom is generally brief and moreover it will suddenly disappear. A dissociative fugue presents with an unexpected distancing from the place where the individual normally lives and the incapacity to recall one’s past. There may also be confusion concerning the individual’s personal identity or the assumption of a new identity. Derealization consists in experiencing a strong feeling of unreality or detachment from reality, while depersonalization is characterised by a sense of detachment and unreality within oneself, as if the mind were outside of the body. These sensations are caused by an extreme attempt to distance oneself emotionally from a traumatic event and to become entirely separated from it.

Psychology and psychotherapy
Sintomi dissociativi, amnesia, trauma
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