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Post-Traumatice Stress Disorder (PTSD)

What is Acute Traumatic Stress?

Acute traumatic stress is caused by an individual's subjective experience of an extreme traumatic event which can lead to extreme stress that inhibits a person's ability to cope. There is no clear division between stress and trauma. However, we know that stress can lead to trauma, which leads to adaptation, or may develop into PTSD.1

  • Trauma is defined as a terrifying event that a person experiences, witnesses or learns about in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened. 1
  • The traumatic event causes the person to feel intense fear, terror or a sense of helplessness. 1
  • Acute traumatic stress is experienced by anyone witnessing a traumatic event or violence. 1

For trauma and trauma recovery information specific to service members and veterans, visit the Returning Veterans topic section.

For additional information, visit the "Resilience, Stress, and Trauma" section of the Human Priorities Website. This section includes pages on understanding and building resilience, post-trauma reactions as signs of strength, adrenaline overload, help and training in managing reactions, how memory works in trauma, changing the way the body handles memories, and the brain's resilience in spite of stress and trauma. The content of that web site is also included in the workbook called The Power and Price of Survival: Understanding Resilience, Stress, and Trauma, copyright 2009, by Pamela Woll, MA, CADP.

For information on Self Care, Trauma, and how it relates to clinicians' work, click on the Workforce Grow section: Selfcare and Trauma of this Website.

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