Write a brief comparison of similarities and differences between acute stress disorder (ASD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Imagine the survivors of a home invasion. Feelings of terror and helplessness that shake the very foundation of personal security are the result when strangers enter the home with the intent and will to do harm. Some survivors may resolve these immediate feelings of helplessness by acquiring a handgun, pepper spray, or watchdogs, or by taking self-defense courses. During, or for a short time immediately following the invasion, some people may experience the onset of acute stress disorder (ASD) exhibited in racing hearts, bouts of insomnia, and feelings of panic at the sound of footsteps approaching the front door. Others may be so traumatized that they never look at their home in the same way or feel as safe no matter how many locks are on the doors or how state-of-the-art their alarm system may be. When the latter individuals experience a delayed onset of physiological response to trauma that is persistent over the long term, their condition is described as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This tragic scenario is just one example of a traumatic event that could lead to severe but short-lived stress or a prolonged stress response that disrupts the lives of the survivors long after the event is over.

For this Discussion, review this week’s Learning Resources including the “Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder” handout. Reflect on the similarities and differences between ASD and PTSD. Then consider that you have been asked to prepare a pre-deployment PTSD prevention workshop for military health service workers. Consider intervention techniques you might recommend to prevent the development of PTSD in this population.

With these thoughts in mind:

Write a brief comparison of similarities and differences between acute stress disorder (ASD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Then explain two potential PTSD symptoms that could develop for a military health service worker. Finally, describe two intervention techniques you might recommend to prevent PTSD and explain why each might be effective. Be specific.Acute Stress Disorder and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

During and immediately following a traumatic event some form of stress response is to be expected and it might have an impact on your emotional as well as your physical wellbeing. In fact, most people are familiar with the emotional stress response triggered by trauma to be a form of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, not every traumatic stress response can be attributed to PTSD. If the emotional trauma during and immediately following a traumatic event—such as an inability to concentrate or panic attacks in response to any association with the traumatic event—persist for at least two days or up to four weeks, it is more likely acute stress disorder (ASD). While there are some symptom similarities, the diagnosis of PTSD versus ASD has more to do with when emotional limitations occur and how long the symptoms last.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is an incapacitating disorder that may occur in individuals who witness or experience dangerous or threatening traumatic events. Individuals who experienced a disaster, witnessed or participated in war, or experienced personal violence are examples of those who might suffer the disorder. There is a biological component to PTSD; the brain structure and function change. The hippocampus gets smaller, the amygdala becomes overactive and thus memory and emotion are affected. Lifelong changes in the brain’s biology result. The frightening event is relived; the individual experiences hyperarousal, fear, and a sense of being unsafe. Memories of the event get muddled because the trauma changes how memories are encoded. Abnormal levels of stress hormones that occur in those with PTSD include lower levels of cortisol (indicating stress exhaustion) and higher levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine (part of the flight or flight response).

Even traumatic events committed in secret against the youngest members of society can produce lasting, more pervasive, effects on health and functioning. For example, early-life traumatic experiences such as childhood sexual abuse may influence the physiology of the developing brain. Later in life there is a chronic hyperarousal of the stress response, making the individual vulnerable to further stress and stress-related disease. The dysfunctional HPA axis stress response might be part of the posttraumatic sequelae associated with the trauma.

While most people do not anticipate the occurrence of traumatic events, it is not uncommon for average citizens to learn how to survive in case of an emergency and only deal with PTSD or ASD should the traumatic event occur. What about those who live lives full of danger and uncertainty? Whether they are members of the police force, the fire department, an emergency response team, or the armed forces, lack of preparation in managing the numerous stressful events that they experience and witness can leave them unable to continue answering the call of duty.

This population whose professions expose them to traumatic events can learn to:

· Assess their response to stress,

· Be mindful of physiological and emotional changes, and

· Employ relaxation techniques to minimize the stress response.

Having a variety of self-assessment and care skills is helpful in bringing the body back into balance and preventing long-term health consequences of traumatic stress.

*Disclaimer: This Learning Resource is not meant to assist in the diagnosis of any disorder. As always, please consult with your primary care physician if you suspect you or a loved one may be dealing with any medical illness.

© 2012 Laureate Education, Inc. 1

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