Psychiatry Fast Five Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Acute Stress Disorder?

Stephen Soreff, MD


February 08, 2017

Debriefing after a traumatic event has the potential to be harmful to the affected individual. The experience can be discussed if the patient wishes to do so, but the clinician should avoid pressuring patients who don't want to talk about the event. Although critical incident stress debriefing has been a popular and widely conducted technique, there is evidence that it can have detrimental effects. This is especially true when the affected individual is reluctant to participate.

Basic principles of intervention include making sure the patient has a safe environment, promoting contact with loved ones and other sources of support, and identifying persons at high risk. Patients should be aided in reframing destructive cognitions, such as beliefs that they have behaved badly, are terrible people for being weak or distraught, or that life is hopeless and the world is completely unsafe. People often feel a sense of guilt after surviving a traumatic experience, and it is important to affirm the importance of their survival. Administration of medications, when indicated by the severity or persistence of symptoms, represents another basic principle of intervention.

For more on intervention after emotional trauma, read here.


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