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Is it Worth Getting Therapy for Acute Stress?

Updated: Apr 27

In today's fast-paced world, acute stress is an increasingly common experience. It strikes quickly and intensely, often triggered by specific events or scenarios. In this blog, we'll explore the nature of acute stress, how it affects us, and whether therapy is a viable solution for managing it.

acute stress, man holding head

What is Acute Stress?

Acute stress is the body's immediate reaction to a perceived threat or challenge. This response can be triggered by anything from a sudden job loss to a car accident. Acute stress is typically short-term, lasting from a few hours to a few days.

Physiologically, acute stress prepares the body to "fight or flight" through increased adrenaline and cortisol production, which heightens your awareness and boosts energy. However, when the immediate threat passes, these levels should return to normal.

What Does Acute Stress Feel Like?

The sensations of acute stress are both physical and emotional. Physically, you might experience rapid heartbeat, sweating, tremors, and even panic attacks. Emotionally, acute stress can manifest as irritability, anxiety, restlessness, or a temporary feeling of being overwhelmed.

Each individual may experience acute stress differently, but the common thread is a sense of urgency and intensity that disrupts normal functioning.

What is the Best Way to Deal with Acute Stress?

The best approach to managing acute stress involves several strategies, which may vary based on the individual's circumstances and the severity of the stressor. Here are a few effective methods:

social support for people with acute stress

  1. Immediate Response Techniques: Deep breathing, mindfulness, and grounding exercises can help manage physical symptoms of stress on the spot.

  2. Physical Activity: Engaging in physical activity can metabolize excess stress hormones and restore your body and mind to a calmer state.

  3. Social Support: Talking things over with friends or family can provide emotional relief and new perspectives on the stressful situation.

  4. Professional Help: If acute stress is overwhelming or involves trauma, consulting a professional therapist can be crucial.

How Does Acute Stress Go Away?

Acute stress dissipates as the stressor is removed or becomes less immediate. The body's hormonal balance normalizes, and the intense emotions begin to subside. Recovery time can depend on the individual's resilience, their overall mental health, and the nature of the stressor.

For some, recovery is swift once the situation is resolved. Others might find that their stress response lingers, indicating the need for further support or intervention.

Is Therapy Worthwhile for Acute Stress?

Considering therapy for acute stress depends on several factors, including the severity of the stress, the individual's coping capacity, and whether the acute stress is a recurrent issue. Therapy can be highly beneficial in the following scenarios:

  • Repeated Episodes: If acute stress is a frequent occurrence, it may be a sign of inadequate coping mechanisms or unresolved issues.

  • Intensity of Response: If the stress response is disproportionately intense or debilitating, it might reflect deeper psychological issues.

  • Impairment in Functioning: If acute stress makes daily functioning difficult, therapy can help by providing strategies to manage stress more effectively.

Therapists can equip individuals with tools to handle stressors more effectively, possibly preventing acute stress from becoming a chronic issue. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), in particular, is effective in altering negative thought patterns and improving stress management techniques.

acute stress, holding hands


Acute stress, while a normal part of life, should not be a recurring disruptor to your well-being. If you find yourself frequently overwhelmed by acute stress or struggling to return to normal after stressful events, it may be worthwhile to seek therapy. A professional can help you understand and manage your responses to stress, ensuring that acute stress does not evolve into a more serious, chronic condition.

Understanding when to handle stress on your own and when to seek help is crucial. Remember, prioritising your mental health is always a worthwhile investment. Contact us for a free consultation to see how you can benefit from our counselling services.

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