Criteria for Acute Stress Disorder

This Acute Stress Disorder page contains an abridged version of the DSM-IV Criteria.
(The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) is a guide to the diagnosis of mental disorders in the United States.)

Please note:
This page has been included for information purposes only and although these criteria are displayed to provide a guideline to diagnosis they cannot substitute a visit to a doctor or mental health practitioner.

One more thing:

A "diagnosis" is merely a label .
It does not define you as a person.

Be very aware of The Power of Labelling - Depending on your beliefs about certain words, labelling yourself could bring relief, or possibly make you feel even worse!
Here is an example of some experts who share my point of view.


A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following were present:
1) The person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others.
2) The person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

B. Either while experiencing or after experiencing the distressing event, the individual has three (or more) of the following symptoms:
1) A subjective sense of numbing, detachment, or absence of emotional responsiveness
2) A reduction in awareness of his or her surroundings (e.g., being in a daze)
3) Derealization
4) Depersonalization
5) Dissociative amnesia (i.e., inability to recall an important aspect of the trauma)

C. The traumatic event is persistently reexperienced in at least one of the following ways: recurrent images, thoughts, dreams, illusions, flashback episodes, or a sense of reliving the experience; or distress on exposure to reminders of the traumatic event.

D. Marked avoidance of stimuli that arouse recollections of the trauma (e.g., thoughts, feelings, conversations, activities, places, people).

E. Marked symptoms of anxiety or increased arousal (e.g., difficulty sleeping, irritability, poor concentration, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, motor restlessness).
F. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning or impairs the individual’s ability to pursue some necessary task, such as obtaining necessary assistance or mobilizing personal resources by telling family members about the traumatic experience.

G. The disturbance lasts for a minimum of 2 days and a maximum of 4 weeks and occurs within 4 weeks of the traumatic event.
H. The disturbance is not due to the direct physiological effects of a substance (e.g., drug of abuse, a medication) or a general medical condition, is not better accounted for by Brief Psychotic disorder, and is not merely an exacerbation of a preexisting Axis I or Axis II disorder.
Acute Stress Disorder is distinguished from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because the symptom pattern in Acute Stress Disorder must occur within 4 weeks of the traumatic event and resolve within that 4-week period.
If the symptoms persist for more than 1 month and meet criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the diagnosis is changed from Acute Stress Disorder to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
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