Acute Stress Disorder: Diagnosis

For your child to be diagnosed with acute stress disorder, he must have been exposed to a traumatic event, including real or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation. He might have experienced the distressing event himself, witnessed it, or learned about it happening to a close family member.

To be diagnosed with this disorder, a child must exhibit a range of these symptoms: recurring, intrusive memories or dreams of the event; dissociative states in which he feels it is recurring; distress triggered by things that remind him of the event; and efforts to avoid distressing memories, thoughts or feelings, and situations that remind him of the event. Other symptoms include irritability, difficulty sleeping, hypervigilance, problems with concentration, and negative mood.

Acute stress disorder is diagnosed only if the symptoms persist from 3 to 30 days after the event.