Acute stress disorder (ASD) is the response immediately following a traumatic experience. The usefulness of its diagnosis remains equivocal, especially its value as a useful predictor of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Nonetheless, efforts to evaluate ASD have generated considerable research. This entry reviews the definition, the evolution of ASD diagnosis, and the treatment of ASD.


Acute stress disorder is the initial psychological reaction to witnessing or experiencing psychological trauma. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) characterizes ASD by the fulfillment of certain criteria:

  • Having experienced intense fear, helplessness, or horror in response to a traumatic experience
  • Displaying three or more of the following dissociative symptoms
    • Emotional numbing
    • Detachment, or absence of emotional responsiveness
    • Reduction in awareness of surroundings
    • Derealization or depersonalization
    • Dissociative ...
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