The Benefits of Mental Health Treatment for Acute Stress Disorder: Helping a Loved One Find Relief

Traumatic events affect individuals in very different ways. We all understand the normal, socially-acceptable levels of stress we or our loved ones may experience after a trauma occurs, but knowing when it’s time to get help can be difficult. Understanding the symptoms of Acute Stress Disorder will help you determine when your loved one may need professional assistance to achieve recovery. Seeking mental health treatment for Acute Stress Disorder can help your loved one get back to living their lives once more.

Trauma is incredibly difficult to endure—both for the person who experienced the event and for their loved ones. It can be hard to ask for help, and it can be even harder to offer help to an individual who desperately needs it. We often have no idea which reactions to trauma are normal, how long those reactions should last, and at what point our loved one needs more help than we can give.

If your loved one is enduring painful symptoms after experiencing a traumatic event (including enduring or witnessing sexual or bodily assault, the loss of a family member, a mass shooting, a car accident, or another event in which they feared physical harm or death), they may be struggling with Acute Stress Disorder. The first step toward healing is understanding how this reaction is different from “normal” stress, and from there you can help your loved one seek help from trusted mental health professionals. With time and healing guidance, your loved one will be free from the suffering caused by this trauma and will be able to thrive in their daily life once more.

Recognizing the Signs of Acute Stress Disorder


We all experience helpful reactions to trauma—these are strategies our brains and bodies use to help protect us and heal the damage that may have been done. Within the first few days after the event, your loved one may experience an understandable level of anxiety and you might encourage them to “take it easy” and not push themselves to keep up to their normal level of daily productivity. Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) can begin at any point in the first month after a traumatic event, and it’s important to distinguish these symptoms from the “normal” level of stress we would expect.

Those who suffer from ASD experience painful mental, emotional, and physical symptoms above and beyond what we would consider normal—and these symptoms tend to last much longer. Your loved one could be experiencing:

  • Anxiety—Intense feelings of horror, fear, and anxiety may persist for days or weeks even though your loved one may be “safe” and away from the traumatic situation.
  • Dissociation—Your loved one may feel like they don’t know where they are, like they’re watching your experiences happen from afar, or like they are existing outside of their own body.
  • Depression—Abnormally low mood, low energy, or serious fatigue are all common symptoms your loved one might experience.
  • Bodily Distress—Stomach upset or bowel pain, headaches, or painful joints are also possible reactions to trauma that, when prolonged, may require professional help to resolve.

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When to Seek Mental Health Treatment for ASD


Acute Stress Disorder tends to last only a brief while, anywhere between 3 days and 4 weeks. However, this experience can have a significant and enduring impact on your loved one and their quality of life. It’s also not uncommon for ASD to manifest alongside, or trigger, co-occurring disorders or addictions. It’s always a good idea to speak with a professional when symptoms like these occur, and if your loved one is diagnosed with ASD, it’s important that you seek further mental health treatment to prevent developing chronic PTSD in the long term. With help from an experienced medical doctor, psychiatrist, or therapist, you and your loved one will be able to determine the next steps toward recovery.

If symptoms of ASD are affecting your loved one to the point where they struggle to work or to take care of their daily needs, or if their symptoms are causing significant distress, it’s definitely time to seek professional guidance. It may also benefit your loved one to seek guidance from a trusted treatment center when outpatient therapies don’t seem to help, when symptoms persist for longer than anticipated, or when your loved one’s experience with trauma severely impacts an existing mental health disorder.

As a client at a really fantastic treatment center, your loved one will receive a thorough evaluation by expert psychologists and psychiatrists. They’ll work closely with trauma specialists to heal from what they experienced, and may receive medications to help ease symptoms of pain, insomnia, or anxiety. They will also learn beneficial coping skills and engage in therapies designed to help work through trauma and achieve full recovery—one of which, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, is the APA’s first recommended treatment to help prevent the onset of other mental disorders including PTSD.

Making the Decision to Seek Treatment


Trauma is horrifying and the after-effects can be difficult to endure. But if you seek help from trusted mental health professionals, your loved one has the opportunity to recover quickly and get back to living a normal life. By helping them seek treatment now, you’re setting up powerful defenses against their developing more serious mental health disorders down the road while facilitating their journey toward a healthier, happier life.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive residential treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles and San Diego-based programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward healing.