South OC Counseling

Piper Walsh, Ph.D. PhD. Clinical Psychologist
Call Now (949) 370-4726

Therapy and Counseling for Children, Adolescents, Adults, Couples and Familes in South Orange County

Acute Stress Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (ASD and PTSD)

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Both disorders are in reaction to a traumatic event and have the same symptoms: nightmares, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, or an inability to return to the scene of where the trauma took place. ASD occurs in the 30 days following the traumatic event. PTSD is diagnosed after a thirty day time period can continue for a year or many years.

ASD often involves feelings of numbness and a sense of things being “unreal” such as one’s environment or even one’s own thoughts. The hallmarks of PTSD are similar, with persistent memories and thoughts of the traumatic event, as well as hypervigilance and a tendency to be easily startled. Both can involve feelings of hopelessness, depression, and anxiety.

In this video, Dr. Piper Walsh explains two anxiety disorders, acute stress disorder (ASD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), how they differ, and how she approaches them therapeutically.

With regard to PTSD, Dr. Walsh notes that many people are not aware that their symptoms relate directly to an event that may have occurred years ago. Car accidents and medical issues are examples of this type of trigger. In these sorts of cases, it’s important to first identify and acknowledge that event in order to process and work on the trauma involved.

In the event of buried traumas such as childhood sexual abuse, Dr. Walsh uses a less aggressive therapeutic approach, wherein the patient is asked to revisit the trauma for shorter periods of time. This method’s purpose helps to avoid decompensation on the patient’s part. Decompensation occurs when exploring the traumatic event becomes overwhelming psychologically and the sufferer becomes unable to function normally. “Flooding” has occurred, a state in which the person feels overwhelmed and unable to function due to a heightened emotional state. A more gentle approach still addresses the core concern while preserving an individual’s ability to cope with their daily responsibilities.

Facing trauma and recovering from it can change a person’s life. The shock of ASD and the prolonged hopelessness of PTSD can be addressed with specifically tailored therapy and the sufferer can work to alleviate their pain with the help and support of a caring therapist.