Acute post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), also known as acute stress disorder (ASD), is characterized by anxiety, irritability, and intrusive thoughts of the trauma for up to a month after the trauma. Acute PTSD is well-known to occur after motor vehicle accidents with studies saying it occurs anywhere from 13% to 21% of cases.
Acute PTSD and Stress Hormones
Cortisol (core-tih-soul) is one of the main hormones in regulating stress. It is considered the main stress hormone since it affects your body’s normal processes to get you ready for fight or flight. Cortisol increases your brain’s use of sugars and stops functions in your digestive and reproductive systems. Continued cortisol release can be harmful to your health.
Epinephrine (eh-pih-NEH-frin), also known as adrenaline, is another hormone that regulates stress. It is secreted by your adrenal glands and generally increases blood flow. Norepinephrine (NOR-eh-pih-neh-frin), which is chemically similar to epinephrine yet differs in that it is also secreted by neurons in your brain, promotes circulation of blood to muscles to increase energy. These two hormones, along with dopamine, are considered catecholamines (cat-eh-KOH-leh-meens).
What’s most interesting is that directly following a motor vehicle accident, cortisol and epinephrine levels decrease in people that reported continuing intrusive thoughts about the collision. Even 15 hours after the accident, cortisol and epinephrine levels remain lower in people diagnosed with acute PTSD caused by the collision than those not diagnosed with PTSD.
However, patients with intrusive thoughts had higher levels of norepinephrine and dopamine 15 hours after the motor vehicle accident. Researchers speculate that the increase of norepinephrine and dopamine, both of which can be created by neurons in the brain, and the decrease of cortisol and epinephrine, which are only created in the adrenal glands, affect the way memories are consolidated and stored.
When to Seek Help
Have you been in a motor vehicle accident and experiencing intrusive thoughts about it? If the accident keeps crossing your mind when you don’t want to think about it, psychotherapy has had remarkable success in treating acute PTSD. Finding a therapist that specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can lessen or completely remove the symptoms of acute PTSD.
If you hire an experienced motor vehicle collision attorney to seek compensation for your medical bills after your accident, any psychotherapy appointment to treat your acute PTSD will be included. The Advocates not only include all of your related medical bills when they negotiate for your fair compensation, but they also include your pain and suffering. Call us now to discuss your case—it’s completely free and confidential!