Acute stress disorder (ASD) was introduced into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) taxonomy in 1994 to address the lack of a specific diagnosis for acute pathological reactions to trauma and the role that dissociative phenomena play both in the short- and long-term reactions to trauma. In this review, we discuss the history and goals of the diagnosis and compare it with the diagnoses of acute stress reaction, combat stress reaction, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We also evaluate the research on the validity and limitations of ASD as a diagnosis, the relationship between peritraumatic dissociation and other symptomatology, the extent to which PTSD is predicted by previous ASD or peritraumatic dissociation, and other important issues such as impairment and risk factors related to ASD. We conclude with our recommendations for changes in DSM-5 criteria and the development of more sophisticated research that considers ASD as but one of two or possibly three common acute posttraumatic syndromes.
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