abnormal psychology, Maladaptive psychology, Uncategorized

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Acute Stress Disorder, and Attachment Disorder

PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and ASD (Acute Stress Disorder) are both disorders which manifest due to traumatic experience meaning serious injury, sexual violation, or threatened / actual death (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2013).  The DSM mandates one of the follow must occur:  The individual must have direct experience with or witness the event, the event must have happened to someone close to them, or have repetitive exposure or re-experience the traumatic event (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2013).

PTSD and Acute Stress Disorder both present with four categories of symptoms:  The individual having repeated experiences of a severely traumatic even via flashbacks, nightmare, or images which cause him or her to relive the event.  Persistent avoidance behaviors are exhibited in situations, thoughts, or memories that have potential associations to the event.  Negative changes of thoughts and mood including lapse of memories in certain aspects of the event, survivor’s guilt, unrealistic blame, and chronic distress.  Finally, the individual holds a constant guard in fear of event re-occurrence (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2013).  Additionally, the individual may experience dissociation with immediate surroundings others perceive as daydreaming or “getting lost” in their own world (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2013).  A study presented by Tolin and Foa indicates that both disorders also occur more often in females than males (2006).  A lot of factors pan into the gender differences that may equate to the variation such as the duration and severity of the event.  Also taken into consideration is the frequency and different kinds of traumatic events that occur (Tolin & Foa, 2006).

Although both contain the same symptoms, diagnosis is dependent on the onset and duration of the symptoms.  Acute Stress Disorder is a short term response to extreme trauma and maintains potential as a precursor for PTSD.  Acute Stress Disorder manifests within a month of the experience and lasts no longer than four weeks (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2013).  If the symptoms persist longer than the four-week period, it leans toward PTSD.  Additionally, those with Acute Stress Disorder may experience more depersonalization and derealization, although dissociation is also common.

Attachment disorder is defined as emotional and behavioral symptoms such as depression, anxiety and social behaviors which manifest in response to a stressor of any severity from mild to severe, unlike PTSD which must be a severely traumatic experience.  Attachment disorder is used as a diagnosis for individuals who do not meet the criteria for PTSD, Acute Stress Disorder, or other anxiety and mood disorders manifested from traumatic experience (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2013).  Attachment disorder may be triggered via moving to a new place, switching jobs, or during times of incarceration when an individual must adjust their entire being to accommodate losing freedom, in a sense (Nolen-Hoeksema, 2013).

During a mental health exam, most information is obtained indirectly.  The exam encompasses the individual’s appearance, level of alertness and awareness of the environment, speech, behavior, mood, and affect, thought process and content, memory, calculation ability, judgement, and higher functioning (School of Medicine, 2015).  The primary goal of the assessment is to recognize any existing abnormalities.  After recognizing the abnormalities, one must categorize them according to how/why they are being considered abnormal.  If the assessment cannot be concluded before gathering the information necessary for the exam, diagnosis can be made.  However, sometimes there is a marked abnormality such as intoxication or depression, and the need to complete a full assessment is unnecessary and diagnosis can be drawn.  Other times it may take more than one interaction to draw a diagnosis.  Above all, it is vital to compare the assessment to the individual’s normal level of functioning (School of Medicine, 2015).




Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan. (12/2013). Abnormal Psychology, 6th Edition. [VitalSource Bookshelf Online]. Retrieved fromhttps://digitalbookshelf.argosy.edu/#/books/1259316335/

School of Medicine. (2015). University of California, San Diego. Retrieved from https://meded.ucsd.edu/clinicalmed/mental.htm

Tolin, D. F., & Foa, E. B. (2006, March). Sex differences in trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder: a quantitative review of 25 years of research. Psychological Bulletin, 132(6), 959-992. doi:: 10.1037/0033-2909.132.6.959


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