Acute Stress Response

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Acute Stress Response
Michelle Miller
Liberty University
May 6, 2012

Abstract
Acute stress disorder and post-traumatic disorder are related in many of their symptoms, however acute stress disorder happens immediately following a traumatic event and never lasts more than a month. Acute stress disorder also shows signs of dissociation, which is associated with daydreaming or spacing out. Post-traumatic stress disorder victims have similar symptoms to acute stress disorder; however the symptoms persist for longer than a month. Treatment of both usually involves counseling and in extreme cases medications may be involved. Some victims of trauma tend to question their faith while others grow in their faith.

At 46 years of age Walter Bradford Cannon enlisted in the army in 1917 during World War I as a volunteer on a medical unit in Belgium. It was here that Cannon studied physiological shock and its causes, (Hagen). He went on later to test animals and their blood after being shocked because he wanted to learn more about what exactly causes this “shock.” Cannon tested a cat by taking its blood both before and after it was exposed to a barking dog. The blood of the cat indicated no adrenal hormones before being exposed to the dog, however after the exposure the cat’s blood contained epinephrine, (Hagen). Learning from his experiences, Cannon coined the term “acute stress response” in the 1920’s, which is also referred to as “fight or flight,” (Cherry, 2012). In his studies, Cannon figured out that the reactions in the body that rapidly occur following a stressful situation help the body to mobilize its resources to deal with the situation that seems threatening, (2012). This is when the term “homeostasis” took on a new meaning to Cannon, (Hagen).

We still use the terms “fight or flight” and “acute stress response” today. Acute stress response, or disorder, is short lived, not lasting longer than a month. It is “characterized by three of the following dissociative symptoms: an absence of emotional responsiveness, derealization, a reduced awareness of surroundings, depersonalization, or dissociative amnesia,” (Mash, Wolfe, Parritz, & Troy, 2011). Dissociative symptoms include emotional detachment, loss of memory temporarily, easily startled, and depersonalization, (Fundukian, 2011). Acute stress disorder was presented in 1994 to allow for the differences between the “time-related reactions to trauma” and post-traumatic stress disorder,” (2011, p. 54-55). In 1986, Howowitz “described an acute catastrophic stress reaction characterized by panic, cognitive disorganization, disorientation, dissociation, severe insomnia, and agitation,” (van der Kolk, McFarlane, & Weisaeth, 2007). If the individual experiences any of these symptoms and they last longer than the allowed month time frame, the individual is said to have developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is characterized as “persistent anxiety following an overwhelming traumatic event that occurs outside the range of usual human experience,” (Mash, Wolfe, Parritz, & Troy, 2011). PTSD was first introduced in 1980 and is sometimes referred to as “a normal reaction to abnormal events,” (Fundukian, 2011). The most frequently mentioned traumas that lead to PTSD are “witnessing someone being badly hurt or killed; involved in a fire, flood, earthquake, severe hurricane, or other natural disaster; involvement in a life-threatening accident; or military combat,” (2011, p. 3508).

There some important predictors of post-traumatic stress disorder because not everyone who experiences a traumatic event will develop PTSD. For example, “personality traits, such as neuroticism, introversion, and prior mental disorders” (van der Kolk, McFarlane, & Weisaeth, 2007) may increase the risk for an individual to develop PTSD after being exposed to a traumatic even. The extent of the traumatic event also adds to the development of PTSD. In 1990, Green...
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