Has your teen recently received a diagnosis of Acute Stress Disorder? This disorder can be overwhelming for your teen to navigate, so you are sure to want to step in and offer them all of the help you can. This includes the right type of treatments and programs. Before you can help your teen, you’ll need to understand everything there is to know about acute stress disorder and how it can take a toll on a teen.
A quick definition of Acute Stress Disorder
Acute Stress Disorder (or ASD) is a mental health concern that can become a concern within the first month after experiencing a traumatic event. It can become an issue days or weeks after the event. It should not last much past a month to be classified as Acute Stress Disorder.
ASD symptoms are pretty similar to what is seen in those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder(PTSD). However, to be diagnosed with PSTD, individuals need to have been struggling for a more extended time. This period is typically longer than a month.
People with Acute Stress Disorder have been exposed to a terrifying event. They may experience it directly or indirectly. For example, direct exposure may involve experiencing a severe injury, violence, or death threat.
Indirect exposure may involve witnessing events happening to others or learning of events that occurred to close family members or friends. People mentally re-experience the traumatic event, avoid things that remind them of it, and have increased anxiety.
Signs of Acute Stress Disorder
Acute Stress Disorder can be an intense set of dysfunctional reactions and emotions that become a concern shortly after experiencing an overwhelming and traumatic event. The signs of acute stress disorder can appear within hours or days after the traumatic event. Some of these signs you may see in your teen could include the following.
- Dissociative behavior. Teens may feel that they are not real and are not a part of the world around them.
- Flashbacks about the event during waking hours and nightmares leave them reliving the traumatic event.
- Feeling like they are right back in that moment, reliving the event repeatedly.
- Trouble falling and staying asleep. Some teens may ask to sleep next to a parent or sibling due to feeling afraid of sleeping independently.
- Trouble with concentration. This could become a problem both at school and at home.
- Appearing to be dazed or zoning out quite often. Having a conversation may become a challenge when your teen zones out and doesn’t hear you.
- Withdrawing from family and friends, particularly if someone reminds your teen of the traumatic event.
- Feeling anxious and displaying signs of anxiety and agitation when reminded of the event.
- Avoiding the place where the traumatic event happened or avoiding places that remind him of the traumatic event.
- Showing signs of sadness and depression. The severity can vary, of course, but your teen may spend more time on his crying or appearing despondent.
- Being in a bad mood without any other apparent triggers. His moods could also make way for angry outbursts that are misdirected at the supportive family and friends who surround him.
Any time your teen’s behavior changes to reflect some of these potentially alarming signs, it should be addressed in therapy and through the guidance of other mental wellness professionals.
Is your teen at a higher risk of ASD?
Trauma can impact each of us in unique ways. Some may shake off the traumatic experience better, while others may struggle with long-lasting effects stemming from the event.
A few factors can potentially increase your teen’s risk for acute stress disorder after experiencing trauma.
- The severity of the traumatic experience and whether It’s happened more than once.
- Having experienced trauma in the past. If that trauma was not addressed with therapeutic solutions, your teen might not be mentally strong enough to handle repeated trauma.
- Having struggled with PTSD that was not correctly handled or treated.
- Living with mental health concerns, whether depression, anxiety, or something else entirely.
- Whether there were physical injuries sustained during the traumatic event.
Getting the correct treatment for ASD
With a solid understanding of acute stress disorder, you’ll be better positioned to help your teen get to the correct type of treatment. Finding the right kind of treatment to address the needs of the individual is an integral part of helping to encourage healthy healing.
Some of the treatment options include the following.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), including exposure therapy.
- Medication options. Medications are not the right solution for every teen. It’s important to discuss your teen’s medical and medication background with the medical and mental wellness team.
- Group therapy with other teens who have had the same
A combination of treatments can often work best for teens struggling with acute stress disorder. The right mix can help reduce the severity of your teen’s symptoms.
Supporting your teen at home
Getting professional help for your teen is the right step to help him heal. It’s also crucial that you provide him with the right support at home every day. What this support looks like will be based upon the severity of his symptoms and the type of support he is more likely to respond to.
Trauma responses can lead teens to feel very much alone with everything they are experiencing or feeling. The most important thing that you can do is continue communicating with your teen. Remind him that you will always be in his corner and always be there for him. Your support will mean the world to your teen.
If your teen wants to talk, this is your opportunity to listen without judgment. Listen and provide advice only if he appears to want it. Sometimes your teen simply wants to be heard.
If your teen is avoiding people and places that trigger a trauma response, you can do your part to help keep him feeling safe.
Be patient, understanding, and provide your teen with a safe environment. If you find that your teen needs more help than what you can provide at home, a therapeutic boarding school might be a safe and structured choice for him.
At Help Your Teen Now, we can pair teens and parents with the resources that can offer the right type of supportive environment and help meet your teen’s needs.