What is ACUTE STRESS REACTION? What doe ACUTE STRESS REACTION mean? ACUTE STRESS REACTION meaning – ACUTE STRESS REACTION definition – ACUTE STRESS REACTION explanation.
Source: Wikipedia.org article, adapted under license.
Acute stress reaction (also called acute stress disorder, psychological shock, mental shock, or simply shock) is a psychological condition arising in response to a terrifying or traumatic event, or witnessing a traumatic event that arises a strong emotional response within the individual. It should not be confused with the unrelated circulatory condition of shock/ hypoperfusion, or the concept of shock value. Acute stress reaction may develop into delayed stress reaction or better known as PTSD if stress isn’t correctly managed.
“Acute stress response” was first described by Walter Cannon in the 1920s as a theory that animals react to threats with a general discharge of the sympathetic nervous system. The response was later recognized as the first stage of a general adaptation syndrome that regulates stress responses among vertebrates and other organisms.
Common symptoms that sufferers of acute stress reaction experience are: numbing; emotional detachment; muteness; derealization; depersonalization; psychogenic amnesia; continued re-experiencing of the event via thoughts, dreams, and flashbacks; and avoidance of any stimulation that reminds them of the event. During this time, they must have symptoms of anxiety, and significant impairment in at least one essential area of functioning. Symptoms last for a minimum of 2 days, and a maximum of 4 weeks, after which point continued symptoms may result in a diagnosis of PTSD.
Acute stress disorder (abbreviated ASD, and not to be confused with autism spectrum disorder) is the result of a traumatic event in which the person experiences or witnesses an event that causes the victim/witness to experience extreme, disturbing, or unexpected fear, stress, or pain, and that involves or threatens serious injury, perceived serious injury, or death to themselves or someone else. A study of rescue personnel after exposure to a traumatic event showed no gender difference in acute stress reaction. Acute stress reaction is a variation of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The onset of an acute stress response is associated with specific physiological actions in the sympathetic nervous system, both directly and indirectly through the release of adrenaline and to a lesser extent noradrenaline from the medulla of the adrenal glands. These catecholamine hormones facilitate immediate physical reactions by triggering increases in heart rate and breathing, constricting blood vessels. An abundance of catecholamines at neuroreceptor sites facilitates reliance on spontaneous or intuitive behaviors often related to combat or escape.
Normally, when a person is in a serene, unstimulated state, the “firing” of neurons in the locus ceruleus is minimal. A novel stimulus, once perceived, is relayed from the sensory cortex of the brain through the thalamus to the brain stem. That route of signaling increases the rate of noradrenergic activity in the locus ceruleus, and the person becomes alert and attentive to the environment.
If a stimulus is perceived as a threat, a more intense and prolonged discharge of the locus ceruleus activates the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system (Thase & Howland, 1995). The activation of the sympathetic nervous system leads to the release of norepinephrine from nerve endings acting on the heart, blood vessels, respiratory centers, and other sites. The ensuing physiological changes constitute a major part of the acute stress response. The other major player in the acute stress response is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
A recent study found that a single stressful event may cause long-term consequences in the brain. This result calls the traditional distinction between the effects of acute vs chronic stress into question.