Acute stress disorder is characterized by an overwhelming sense of stress, fear, and panic, beginning after a traumatic or disturbing event. The severity of these symptoms is such that they impair a teen’s ability to function and engage normally in everyday life. This disorder is considered a precursor to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
What Does Acute Stress Disorder Look Like?
- Heightened irritability and emotionality, as well as symptoms of generalized anxiety
- Social withdrawal, to avoid potential triggers from the event
- Random moments of distress and panic, caused by sudden flashbacks, recurring nightmares, or images
- An avoidance of all things reminding a teen of their trauma
Causes of Acute Stress Disorder
The cause of acute stress disorder is what defines it: acute stress refers to a highly stressful event, enough to mentally shake a teen up, disrupting their normal functioning because of the severity of the event. As with trauma and post-traumatic stress, acute stress is highly subjective. For example: if a teen survives a traumatic event alongside others and one of them develops an acute stress disorder, that does not mean the others will as well. Some causes of acute stress disorder include:
Extreme pain – sudden and extreme pain can be a traumatic event.
Sexual or physical abuse – being subjected to violence by others not only causes emotional and physical pain, but gravely injures a teen’s sense of self, and can often leave lasting damage on a teen’s psyche.
Surviving a disaster – surviving a crash, natural disaster, school shooting or other terrible events can cause a teen to develop acute stress disorder.
Experiencing extreme emotional pain – anything from the traumatic loss of a close loved one to being subjected to emotional torment.
Threat of death – a near-death experience of some form can be traumatic enough to trigger an acute stress disorder
How Can I Help My Teen with Acute Stress Disorder?
Be there for them – The most important thing for a parent to do is be there. Simply letting your teen know that you’re in their corner for whenever they might need you can be extremely comforting.
Bring light into their day – ASD can lead to depressive symptoms and symptoms of social isolation. Help your teen fight against these symptoms by incorporating outdoor activities and comedy into their life. Routine is important, but it’s good to break routine every now and again and do something fun. Remind your teen that life can be good.
Keep them on track – there are many ways to counter the anxious and depressive symptoms of an acute stress disorder, but that will require sticking to a regimen. From eating better to getting enough exercise and working on something fulfilling, keeping life chockful of uplifting things can help fight against the symptoms of ASD while in therapy. You can help your teen by reminding them of their responsibility to themselves and helping them stay on track with their treatment.
What Types of Teen Acute Stress Disorder Treatment Are Available?
Talk Therapy – Many approaches to teen acute stress disorder treatment are relaxation based, which helps a teen let go of some of the insistent and relentless thoughts that produce their feelings of anxiety and fear. The different forms of therapy (such as breathing, visualization, and imaging) can be extremely helpful in providing a teen with relief and empowering them to slow their minds to calmly address their feelings.
Acute stress disorder is considered the precursor to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which means that if the cause was severe enough and if symptoms are left untreated and continue to fester and worsen, the condition can escalate, especially after another traumatic event.
Medication – In certain cases, a teen can gain relief from taking medication for some of the symptoms associated with acute stress disorder, which can help lay the groundwork for improvement during therapy. Because this mental health disorder is specifically related to a traumatic event, it’s important that therapy is the primary form of teen acute stress disorder treatment. Medication can help alleviate some severe symptoms – such as unchecked anxiety and severe depression – but it is not meant to be a cure.
Alternative Therapy – There are many highly effective alternative therapies that are used often in conjunction with medication and psychotherapy. Hypnotherapy and exposure-based therapies are common ways to tackle acute stress disorder, as both allow a patient to tackle their fears either consciously (exposure therapy) or subconsciously (hypnotherapy). Neither therapies are meant emotionally damaging. All forms of therapy involve going over the event and helping a teen work through it – this can be uncomfortable at first, but it’s important to confront the memory rather than let it fester and let the symptoms worsen.
Teen Acute Stress Disorder Treatment at Paradigm Treatment
Paradigm Treatment helps teens with various mental health issues, so we understand how treatment for a traumatic event must be sensitive to the circumstances and details of the trauma. Every case is unique and requires individual attention. It’s no different for cases of ASD, and we are equipped to help teens return to normal lives, without the baggage of their condition weighing them down.
Away from the Stress – The primary advantage of a mental health treatment facility is that it’s a new, fresh environment, away from potential triggers. We create a safe place for teens to discuss their issues and work through them, with therapists and other teens alike. We keep groups small and interactions limited, especially for teens who struggle with social interaction or prefer to withdraw from others. Learning to be in a group is an important step, but there are other issues to address as well – we work hard to address them all.
A Chance for Healing – At Paradigm Treatment, we utilize a series of different therapies and approaches – from one-on-one sessions to group activities – to help teens work through their issues at the pace they’re comfortable with. By staying at a dedicated facility, we give them the perfect environment for overcoming their mental health condition and moving on with their lives. It may take time for your teen to lead a completely normal life, but we make every day of treatment count at Paradigm Treatment.
Paradigm Treatment saved our daughter’s life. The loving and caring staff was always there for us. Cannot say enough about how grateful we are for every single individual team member. We love you.
Alberto R., parent of a former client
Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Acute Stress Disorder
The point is I don’t want to think about the event. So how am I going to do talk therapy?
There are some things you can control and some you can’t. What you can’t control is the awful, traumatic event that you experienced, because it’s in the past. Although it’s understandable to want to avoid painful memories, if you’re experiencing such strong symptoms following the event as to be diagnosed with acute stress disorder, then you’re not avoiding it anyway. What you can control, with the help of a therapist, is the way you’re going to move forward with your life. Therapy is not meant to make you relive the event repeatedly, but instead get to a point where your mind is no longer stuck on that one memory. A therapist can help figure out the best ways to help you explore your trauma in healthy ways, so you can begin to feel like you have power over the way you address your feelings, rather than those feelings having power over you.
What if it gets worse and becomes PTSD?
If the disorder develops into post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), then you will still be able to get treatment, and there’s still every possibility of a full recovery into a normal life. However, PTSD can be more difficult to treat, which is why seeking teen acute stress disorder treatment early can make it easier on you, in the long run.
Will my life ever go back to being like it was before this happened?
It’s hard to say whether you’ll go back to life as it was before, but many people are able to return to living healthy, normal, happy lives, even after the trauma and the disorder. At Paradigm, we hope that you will go back to living your life. It may end up being different, but it’ll still be a life you can enjoy and live to the fullest.