Acute Stress Response sample essay
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 anticipated eight basic measurements of traumatic stressors that include many different types of events that are considered traumatic.
These measurements include: “threat to one’s life and body integrity; severe physical harm or injury; receipt of intentional injury/harm; exposure to the grotesque; witnessing or learning of violence to loved ones; learning of exposure to a noxious agent; and causing death or severe harm to another,” (2007, p. 86). However, if individuals prepare sufficiently when possible for a stressful event, then they may be somewhat protected from the severe stress of the traumatic events. Preparation tends to reduce the uncertainty of an event and may even increase the individual’s sense of control.
How individuals cope during a stressful event is also a predictor of PTSD. Successful coping may moderate the effect of stress in the long run. “Effective coping results in relief of personal distress, maintenance of a sense of personal worth, conservation of one’s ability to form rewarding social contacts, and sustained capability to meet the requirements of the task,” (2007, p. 89). In order for an individual to be diagnosed for acute stress disorder, that individual must be exposed to an event that is traumatic or they must have had some type of experience that involves intense fear, horror, or helplessness.
The experienced event must be a death threat, physical integrity, or serious injury, and may happen to the individual himself or to other individuals surrounding him. Three or more of the following symptoms must present in the individual: loss of emotion, or detachment; reduced consciousness of surroundings; depersonalization, (feeling detached from oneself); derealization (feelings of not being real); or dissociative amnesia, (PsyWeb. om, 2012). Also, the traumatic event must be re-experienced in at least one of the following ways: “distressing recollections of the event or experience; dreams that are recurring and distressful; reliving the event or experience in the form of flashbacks, hallucinations, images, illusions, or thoughts; or reacting in a physiological manner to any aspect of the event or experience,” (2012).
Avoidance is also displayed by the individual. For example, the individual may tend to avoid anything that is related to the traumatic event that was experienced. The individual may also tend to avoid any thoughts or feelings pertaining to the trauma and may not wish to talk about the event. Lastly, any activities, places, people, or things that pertained to the trauma may also be avoided.
In order to be fully diagnosed, the individual must also be unable to function in important areas such as work and the symptoms must last two days or longer, but no more than a month, (2012). Post-traumatic stress disorder typically starts within three months of the traumatic event. In order to diagnose PTSD in an individual, they must have been exposed to an event or an experience that was traumatic and involved a serious injury or a threat to the individual’s death as well as physical integrity.
The re-experiencing of the event or experience must be present in at least one of the following: “distressing recollections of the event or experience that is both intrusive and reoccurring; dreams that are reoccurring and distressful; reliving the event or experience in the form of flashbacks, hallucinations, or illusions; if exposed to any aspect of the event or experience an intense psychological distress followed; or reacting in a physiological manner to any aspect of the event or experience,” (PsyWeb. com, 2012).
The individual may tend to avoid anything that is related to the trauma and may experience a numbing of responsiveness. For example, the individual may not wish to talk about the traumatic event or experience and may avoid any thoughts or feelings pertaining to the trauma. Places, people, and things that may set off feelings pertaining to the traumatic event may also be avoided. Individuals who experience PTSD typically cannot remember important facts about the traumatic event or experience that happened to them. They also tend to become disinterested in important activities or have feelings of being detached from others.
Lastly, feelings of no real future may come into play. At least two of the following of persistent indicators of increased arousal tend to occur: “problems with falling or staying asleep; irritability or outbursts of anger, sometimes unexpected and for no apparent reason; having problems concentrating; hypervigilant (being overly sensitive to sounds or sights); or response to being startled is” exaggerated, (2012). These symptoms must last for more than a month and the individual must be unable to function in important areas, (2012). Exposure to a traumatic event is a common experience.
At some point in their lifetime, around 50% – 70% of individual are exposed to a traumatic event, however only about 5% – 12% actually develop PTSD, (Ursano, et. al, 2009). Treating acute stress disorder can be a bit challenging since there is a presence of severe dissociative reactions. There is not a lot of research on treating acute stress disorder since it is a fairly new diagnosis. When considering the disorder, one should consider the extents of biological, psychological, and social in combination. When one area is treated, other areas may open up so that they may be treated as well.
Medication may also be used, but not as a cure. Individuals exposed to trauma are often very confused and uncertain about their symptoms as well as how to adapt to their current grief. Educating these individuals is very beneficial and the initial assessment should be focused on giving them information pertaining to their symptoms. They need to understand that their symptoms are normal and are experienced in others with the same disorder. After the individual has been given information regarding their symptoms and how to adapt, but before the actual treatment begins, individuals need to be brought to safety and protected.
For example, following a natural disaster, victims will need to be brought to safety. A child who is the victim to sexual abuse needs to be physically protected, (van der Kolk, McFarlane, & Weisaeth, 2007). The treatment of acute stress disorder has many different common goals, such as a sense of control and hope, which are both extremely important to trauma victims. Another goal is to help the individual affected “develop a realistic appraisal of the threat experienced during the trauma and their actual opportunities for response, “ (van der Kolk, McFarlane, & Weisaeth, 2007).
Because victims alter between numbing/withdrawal and hypervigilance/overarousal, it is important to focus on treatment that is a continuous flow between the stages. Once again, the individual needs to focus on their current safety situation. A sense of control needs to be restored by the individual and isolation needs to be reduced. The survivors may feel helpless and hopeless, and these feelings need to be moderated. In some cases, medications may be used, but not as a cure. Medications are only to relieve their symptoms so that effective goal-directed action can be put in to place.
Therapy for individuals who have been in a traumatic situation should be focused on helping the individual move on from the past so that they can be fully involved in the present. The aim of therapy is also to help the individuals become capable of responding to future emergencies. Psychotherapy is one form of therapy used for individuals who have developed PTSD and must cover deconditioning of anxiety and changing the way that the individual affected sees themselves as well how they see their world, (Mash, Wolfe, Parritz, & Troy, 2011).
Trust must be gained between counselor and client in order for any amount of treatment to work effectively. One way of gaining trust is to listen to the individual and allowing them to talk about their trauma story. The individual should be allowed to retell their story without going any deeper than they can bear, (Krupnick, J. , 2002). Brief psychodynamic therapy for victims of PTSD occurs in phases; the initial phase, the middle phase, and the final phase. The initial phase typically takes place during the first four sessions of meeting with the client.
During these session a sense of safety is established and the relationships is built. The fifth through eighth sessions are considered the middle phase and this is where the client learns to work through their difficulties. The focus here is on what may have caused the trauma to be so difficult for the client and why the client is unable to put it past them. The client also learns how to “distinguish between real versus distorted meanings of events,” (Krupnick, 2002), which tends to reduce their feelings of guilt or shame.
The final sessions are from sessions nine to twelve and confront the loss and sadness the client is feeling. Closer to the closing of treatment, a review is made of what has already been completed and the future is explored, (2012). Post-traumatic stress disorder not only affects people individually, it also affects family and the people surrounding the individual affected. Individuals with PTSD can be difficult to live with because they startle easily and they avoid situations where socializing is necessary.
Early research shows that “Vietnam Veterans have more marital problems and family violence,” (ptsd. a. gov, 2010). The partners of PTSD victims experience more suffering and their children experience more behavioral problems than those of Veterans without PTSD. Why does this happen? Typically individuals with PTSD have difficulties with feeling emotions and may feel somewhat detached from others, causing relationship troubles. Family members may feel sympathy for their loved ones with PTSD and may even tend to avoid them. Anger, guilt, and depression may be felt by family members and they may even develop health problems, (ptsd. va. gov, 2010).
Positive coping skills can help an individual suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. These coping methods can follow a person and are great tools to use long after treatment sessions are over. If the individual takes action themselves to learn to cope with their problems, the he or she can gain a sense of control and personal power. Becoming educated about trauma and PTSD is a very important coping skill because it helps them to understand that they are not alone in their sufferings and that others suffer from PTSD as well. Having another person to talk to for support is another great coping method.
A support group is great for being around others in the same situation. Support groups help one rebuild trust in others and reduce their sense of isolation. Relaxation methods are also great and can include prayer, yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, swimming, and anything else that a person finds relaxing. Negative actions such as smoking or drug use may cause long-term problems, even if they seem to help temporarily. Positive activities would be best for focusing on distractions from reactions and memories.
Artistic activities have proven to help trauma victims in a positive and creative way, (Ruzek, 2012. If things just do not seem to get any better and any of the above methods do not work, perhaps calling a counselor for help would be essential. Medications that help with sleep, anxiety, anger, or irritability may also be necessary. No one should have to suffer and no one should have to suffer alone. Many times a traumatic event can cause an individual to realize that life is not fair and may cause the individual to question his or her faith. The individual’s meaning and purpose on earth has been displaced and their spirituality has been attacked.
The individual may feel angry and despair along with confusion, guilt and complete withdrawal. They may feel betrayed and even experience a sense of failure. Anger can turn toward God and the individual may begin to question their faith. They may wonder why God has forsaken them or perhaps wonder why God would allow them to suffer. In other instances, faith may be strengthened by a traumatic event and bring the individual closer to God. The individual affected by the trauma may feel as though he or she needs to search for a new purpose or meaning. Trauma may serve as a “catalyst for deeper spiritual growth,” (Smith, 2004).
Some individuals turn towards religion following a traumatic event because they wish to find answers as well as peace and comfort. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 says, “Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all. ” God puts us all through trials and tribulations to see if we are going to turn to Him or away from Him. He wants us to cast all of our anxieties on him because he truly cares for us so much, (1 Peter 5:7). He will never give us more than we can handle and will be with us through every experience we go through.
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