Acute Stress After a Traumatic Event
This handout is about the acute stress that
may occur if you have gone through a life
changing event, accident, or experience.
Acute stress symptoms often appear as
dreams, flashbacks, or distressing memories.
You may also have increased anxiety related
to the traumatic event.
Another symptom can be disorientation.
This means not knowing where you are
and/or forgetting part of the day. If this
happens within the first month after the
event, this can be a sign of acute stress
Acute stress is more common than you may
think. Studies show that 13% to 21% of
people in a motor vehicle crash have acute
stress disorder. The risk for acute stress can
increase to 61% for those with head injuries.
What to Do
If you have any of these symptoms or have
troubling emotions that have started or
increased because of a traumatic event, try
the things on the list below.
ξ Reach out for help. Talk with your
loved ones about what you are
feeling. They likely have their own
emotions about the event that they
would like to share as well.
ξ Contact your health care team to
discuss what you are feeling. Ask for
advice about ways to cope.
ξ Use healthy coping skills like
reading, writing, listening to music,
or exercising. Spend time with
friends or people you trust.
ξ If your concerns would be better
addressed with a mental health
professional, contact your insurance
company. Ask for help to find an in-
network provider in your area.
ξ Dane County Crisis: 608-280-2600
ξ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Phone Number: 1-800-273-8255
ξ Substance Abuse and Mental Health
ξ Resilience Strategies – American
ξ Trauma Survivors Network -
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©5/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#7901.