Stress can come from many different places and be short-lived or long-lasting. Based on the factors contributing to your stress, symptoms and treatment may vary.
Acute Stress is short-lived. It can be beneficial and create motivation. For example, when a deadline is approaching, stress may help you to focus and complete your task before the deadline. College students use this type of stress often to complete projects and “cram” for exams. Acute stress is the type of stress many people feel when they have a car accident, have trouble at work or their children have problems in school. Once the situation is resolved, the stress diminishes.
There can, however, be some physical symptoms of acute stress.
- Stomach aches or indigestion
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Treatment for acute stress often includes rest and relaxation. Anti-anxiety medication is usually only used if acute stress is a trigger for anxiety or panic attacks. Therapy can help is the situation is not going to be resolved in a short period of time.
Chronic, or long-term stress, comes about as the result of a situation that has not been resolved or continued for many years prior to being resolved. This might be a traumatic event that happened during childhood. Although resolved, the feelings surrounding the situation may not have been dealt with and chronic stress remains. There may also be an ongoing situation, such as family abuse, dysfunctional home or an ongoing illness in the family.
This stress has the ability to create additional health problems, for example heart disease or stomach ulcers.
Treatment for chronic stress might include cognitive behavioral therapy and medication as well as treatment for any physical illnesses brought on as a result of living with stress for an extended time.
Published On: June 25, 2008
Acute stress disorder involves symptoms that last from three days to one month following exposure to one or more traumatic events. Symptoms develop after an individual experiences or sees an event involving a threat or actual death, serious injury, or physical violation to the individual or others. Symptoms fall into the five general categories of intrusion, negative mood, dissociation, avoidance, and arousal, and begin or worsen after the trauma occurred.
The diagnosis was established to identify those individuals who would eventually develop post-traumatic stress disorder. This condition was referred to as "shell shock" as far back as World War I, based on similarities between the reactions of soldiers who suffered concussions caused by exploding bombs or shells and those who suffered blows to their central nervous systems. More recently, acute stress disorder came to light as it became clear that people might exhibit PTSD-like symptoms for a short period immediately after a trauma.
Trauma has both a medical and a psychiatric definition. Medically, trauma refers to a serious or critical bodily injury, wound, or shock. This definition is often associated with trauma medicine practiced in emergency rooms and represents a popular view of the term. In psychiatry, trauma has assumed a different meaning and refers to an experience that is emotionally painful, distressful, or shocking, and which often results in lasting mental and physical effects.
In general, it is believed that the more direct the exposure to the traumatic event, the higher the risk for mental harm. Thus in a school shooting, for example, the student who is injured will likely be the most severely psychologically affected, and the student who sees a classmate shot or killed is likely to be more affected than the student who was in another part of the school when the violence occurred. Even secondhand exposure to violence can be traumatic. For this reason, all children and adolescents exposed to violence or a disaster, even if only through graphic media reports, should be watched for signs of emotional distress.