Afghanistan, Iraq, the Balkans - with the deployment of German soldiers we too in recent years will be confronted more with the horrors of war. Time and again, the term PTSD appears in the media: soldiers who are mentally ill on their return, local people who escape the war not only physically, but also mentally injured. But other extremely stressful events can leave their mark. Exceptionally bad events that burden the human psyche can cause two types of reactions at any age: a - normal - acute stress reaction and a - post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) requiring treatment. Previously, such reactions were grouped under the name psychic stress syndrome.
Acute stress reaction
The acute stress reaction is a normal reaction to a non-normal situation, a temporary phase in which the body and soul react to unusual, heavy physical and psychological strains (trauma). These are, for example, self or other events such as an accident, a rape or other violent crime, a natural disaster or the loss of an important person.
But even after a severe physical disorder, such as a heart attack, an acute stress reaction can occur. It is estimated that after a major disaster about 50-90% of those affected show an acute stress response.
How does an acute stress reaction manifest itself?
The extent depends on the individual and current constitution, the duration is a few hours to days. Most of the time, after about eight hours, the symptoms gradually subside and resolve within 3 days. First, the affected person feels numb shortly after the event, he can concentrate and orient himself poorly, has insomnia, gives the impression that he does not care or reacts inappropriately. Often he refuses to acknowledge the situation and tries to retire, but also outbursts of anger, aggression and overactivity occur.
Such reactions may also be accompanied by physical symptoms such as sweating or shaking, palpitations, paleness or blushing. In principle, the symptoms of a generalized anxiety disorder are similar. There are no clear criteria to predict whether a normal stress response will turn into a pathological stress disorder.