Acute Stress Disorder: What to Look For

The signs that a child who’s experienced a distressing event may have developed acute stress disorder include a foggy, dazed, detached demeanor, and intrusive thoughts of the event that may be acted out in intense, repetitive play—for instance, a child who’s been in a car accident may repeatedly crash toy cars together. A child who doesn’t have intrusive memories of the traumatic event might still experience distress when exposed to situations that resemble aspects of it, like wind for one who’s been through a hurricane. She might also strenuously avoid reminders of the event, by refusing to talk about it, minimizing emotions related to it—through alcohol use, for a teenager—or refusing to go back to the setting where it occurred, or interact with other people who experienced it. She may also have nightmares associated with the event, and have difficulty sleeping and concentrating.