Teen Acute Stress Disorder Treatment

Everyone experiences stress from time to time, but teens are especially perceptible to chronic stress due to their busy, overloaded lives. Problems arise when a traumatic event leads a teen to feel an overwhelming amount of stress that becomes further compounded by a sense of panic, fear, or helplessness. Stress that evolves to the point where it is difficult to participate in a normal life is incredibly disabling; it’s also a sign your teen needs help. In fact, Teen Acute Stress Disorder is often categorized as a forerunner to PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).

What Does Teen Acute Stress Disorder Look Like?

  • Teens with this disorder show signs of generalized anxiety. They are often extremely emotional and very easily irritated.
  • Acute Stress Disorder causes teens to withdraw from normal social activities in an attempt to avoid triggering symptoms.
  • Teens may struggle with sudden flashbacks, ongoing nightmares, or vivid mental images that trigger trigger panic or distress.
  • Often, they will practice avoidance with anything that even remotely reminds them of their past, the stress, or a traumatic event.

Signs of Teen Acute Stress Disorder

Flashbacks and vivid memories

Dissociation (mild or severe)

Situational avoidance

Extreme irritability and anger

Withdrawing or self-isolating

Emotional sensitivity

Panic attacks and paranoia

Causes of Teen Acute Stress Disorder

Any incredibly stressful event has the capability to impact a person on a deep emotional level, raising the risk for Acute Stress Disorder. The severity of the traumas that cause this level of stress are so enormous that the individual suffering can no longer function normally.

It is difficult to identify which teens may be at the highest risk for Acute Stress Disorder because stress is inherently subjective. This is most obvious in scenarios where a group of teens experiences a highly traumatic event; one teen may be fine, while another simply lacks the coping skills to adequately respond. There is no guarantee or easy way to predict the disorder, but we do know about these highly common risk factors through research.

Intense pain - Intense pain with a sudden onset – either due to injury, chronic illness, surgery or something else, is often traumatic.

Abuse (physical or sexual) - Witnessing or experiencing violence doesn’t just result in physical harm; it can also result in chronic negative damage to the emotional psyche and sense of self-worth. Experiencing this kind of trauma may lower your teen’s ability to cope.

Disaster survival - School shootings, natural disasters (like hurricanes or earthquakes), car accidents, and other similarly disturbing events lowers the barrier for Acute Stress Disorder. This is probably a result of the fact that these experiences are inherently stressful themselves.

Intense emotional pain – Any intense emotional pain, especially if protracted, can result in Acute Stress Disorder. Commons sources include emotional abuse, grief, the traumatic or sudden loss of a close family member, parental divorce, breakups, or even the loss of a friend.

Near death experiences - Some people actively seen out high-risk, near-death experiences (such as skydiving) for the thrill. Others may internalize the experience and find it traumatic enough to trigger intense negative emotions and chronic stress.

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Teen Acute Stress Disorder Treatment | Paradigm San Francisco


of people who have experienced a trauma develop acute stress disorder


of children who have suffered an injury develop this disorder


of people with acute stress disorder do so because of criminal violence

How Can I Help My Teen with Acute Stress Disorder?

Make yourself available - Your teen needs to know you’re there for them and are available for comfort. Be present often and regularly without being pushy. Your goal is to offer a non-judgemental listening ear.

Expose your teen to light - Because teens with ASD tend to withdraw, they may end up completely isolated and depressed. Encourage your teen to spend time with you outside or find other fun things you can do together, like a family-friendly comedy show or funny movie. Breaking free from your daily routine is a great way to show your teen that life isn’t all bad.

Create a routine - Routine helps to counter the development of the anxiety and depression-related symptoms associated with acute stress disorder. Incorporate regular daily exercise, a purposeful hobby, and healthy eating into your daily schedule. The more uplifting your teen’s activities, they more they’ll aid in the fight against ASD’s crippling symptoms. Developing a routine will also help your teen maintain a sense of responsibility.

What Types of Teen Acute Stress Disorder Treatment are Available?

Talk Therapy

One of the main ways Paradigm San Francisco approaches treatment for Teen Acute Stress Disorder is through relaxation-based therapy. Teens are taught how to stop focusing on their anxiety-producing thoughts and fears, staying in the moment and sitting with their feelings without becoming overwhelmed. Breathing techniques, visualization exercises, and imaging are all helpful tools for slowing your teen’s thoughts, allowing them to feel in control. In the therapeutic environment, these skills also give them a safe place to address the way they feel.

Left untreated, ASD can progress to PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This disorder is much more serious and much more chronic. It is important to seek treatment for your teen’s symptoms before they escalate and worsen. To ignore the problem often results in teens suffering with stress all throughout adulthood.


While ACD is triggered by a trauma, and should be primarily treated with therapy, many patients have greater success in therapy when they use medications to control their symptoms. Getting related anxiety and depression symptoms under control often helps teens feel more in control and more relaxed during therapy sessions, but medications do not cure ASD.

Alternative Therapy

Alternative therapy is not used in place of psychotherapy, but is instead combined with it for a better overall effect. Hypnotherapy allows a patient to subconsciously face their fears; exposure therapy achieves the same goal, but teens remain conscious of their actions at all times. When delivered carefully by a skilled practitioner, neither therapy causes additional emotional trauma or harm. Instead, they aid in helping your teen work through the event to reduce thoughts and stop it from festering.

Teen Acute Stress Disorder Treatment at Paradigm San Francisco

Our mission at Paradigm San Francisco is to help teens with a wide variety of mental health conditions heal, grow, and go on to be the very best they can be. We understand just how important it is to be sensitive when creating treatments for disorders caused by trauma, stress, abuse, and other highly triggering topics. Your teen is unique; that’s exactly why we work so hard on creating individual care plans for every patient. At Paradigm, we strive to help teens with Acute Stress Disorder address baggage and get back to living the life they once loved.

Avoiding Stress

One of the primary reasons for choosing an inpatient treatment facility is the many unique benefits inpatient therapy provides. Residential facilities are safe, removed from stress, and allow teens to focus almost entirely on themselves without distraction. Triggers, which may be common at home, are often eliminated or reduced, leaving teens to feel instant relief – they have a chance to catch their breath before they get started.

Paradigm is a safe space for teens. All of our group sessions are small, ensuring that teens battling social interactions don’t feel triggered to withdraw or self-isolate. Teens preserve the opportunity to heal at their own pace, no matter whether it takes five days or 30 days.

Embracing Healing

Paradigm San Francisco’s top techniques for Acute Stress Disorder include one-on-one therapy, group therapy, and other healing activities. While it often takes time for a teen to get back to living a normal life, the environment we provide is perfect for overcoming symptoms and re-learning how to cope when stress arrives. Every day is useful at Paradigm San Francisco.

Paradigm Malibu saved our daughter's life. The loving and caring staff was always there for us. Cannot say enough about how grateful we are for every single individual team member. We love you.

– Alberto R.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teen Acute Stress Disorder

I’m scared to talk about the event. What if talk therapy makes it worse?

You have control over some parts of your life, but not others. This is just a fact of life for everyone – teens, adults, children, and even grandparents, too. But just because you can’t control what happened in the past doesn’t mean you can’t be in control now.

Everyone tends to avoid painful memories – after all, they’re painful, and we’re genetically wired to avoid pain! But if you have Acute Stress disorder, you’re already being confronted with your history and are struggling to avoid it. Paradigm’s experts won’t force you to constantly relive your trauma, but will help your brain stop getting stuck on it. You’ll be in control as you explore your feelings, address your trauma, and regain power over your life.

What if my Acute Stress Disorder turns into PTSD?

There’s no guarantee that your ASD will turn into PTSD, but getting treatment early can reduce the risk. Even if your symptoms do become worse, you will be in a better place to recover from PTSD because you’re already in treatment. No matter how quickly you heal, you can still make a full recovery.

Will my life ever go back to normal?

It depends on what your definition of “normal” is! Your life may not be exactly the way it was before, but your new life can be incredibly happy, healthy, and filled with meaning. Everyone here at Paradigm wants to see you fulfill your dreams, even if those dreams happen to be a little bit different than they were before. The truth is that most of us change significantly between teenhood and adulthood anyway; you’re just doing it a little bit faster!

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