Acute stress reaction

From ArticleWorld

Acute stress reaction describes a psychological state that is formed by the reaction to a traumatic, terrifying situation in which intense fear was experienced. Although the symptoms usually disappear within hours of the event, in some cases they may develop into more serious conditions in which case medication or psychotherapy may be prescribed.

Acute stress response

There is a specific physiological response to threat that involves the sympathetic nervous system. Upon recognition of danger, two hormones are released by the adrenal glands – epinephrine and norepinephrine- which together initiate the ‘fight or flight’ reaction. They activate the sympathetic nervous system to increase the heart and breathing rates, release energy from fat and tighten muscles in readiness for a response.


Psychological responses to a terrifying situation vary from person to person and from time to time. There is usually an initial daze where stimuli are not immediately comprehended though attention becomes more focused. This may be followed by a dissociative stupor where withdrawal from the situation becomes deeper or by agitation and over-activity. In a few cases, there may be some amnesia for the episode.