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Acute Stress

 

Explanations > Stress > Acute Stress

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?

 

Description

Acute stress is a sharp increase in stress levels that is typically triggered by a surprise or stressful event. It is often experienced as a physical tingling feeling and unthinking reaction.

It is often accompanied by body language of alarm that includes drawing back the body and facial signals such as open mouth (to cry the alarm) and raised eyebrows (to open the eyes and see the danger more clearly).

Example

A falling branch makes a person jump quickly out of the way. They feel dizzy for a while and sit down to recover.

A child screams in a store and many people around feel the increased tension that nature has given them to ensure they respond to a distressed infant.

Somebody write something unpleasant about you on the internet. You feel upset for a while until you decide how to respond.

Discussion

Acute stress leads to the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine from the adrenal glands that are intended to prepare the body for action. Acute stress triggers the response of fight-or-flight, where our primitive brain takes over as it moves us to attack, defend, freeze or run away, much as animals do when faced with a sudden danger. This

Acute Stress Disorder (ASD) results when traumatic event has a longer-term effect beyond the initial stress. This becomes chronic when it wears the person down. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a variant of this. Symptoms can include flashbacks, numbing and a weird sense of detachment as the person continues to mentally pull back from a danger that is long gone.

Acute stress may be contrasted with chronic stress, which is the long-term stress that wears you down.

So what?

Acute stress is common in persuasion, for example where raised voices and deliberate shock is used. Sometimes this is useful just to get people away from a comforable, entrenched position.

See also

Chronic Stress, Fight-or-Flight Reaction

 

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