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Symptoms usually develop quickly over minutes or hours - reacting to the stressful event. They usually settle fairly quickly, but can sometimes last for several days or weeks. Symptoms of acute stress reactions may include the following:

- Psychological symptoms such as anxiety, low mood, irritability, emotional ups and downs, poor sleep, poor concentration, wanting to be alone.

- Recurrent dreams or flashbacks, which can be intrusive and unpleasant.

- Avoidance of anything that will trigger memories. This may mean avoiding people, conversations, or other situations, as they cause distress and anxiety.

- Reckless or aggressive behaviour that may be self-destructive.

- Feeling emotionally numb and detached from others.

- Physical symptoms such as:
-- A thumping heart (palpitations)
-- Feeling sick (nausea)
-- Chest pain
-- Headaches
-- Tummy (abdominal) pains
- Breathing difficulties

The physical symptoms are caused by stress hormones, such as adrenaline (epinephrine), which are released into the bloodstream, and by overactivity of nervous impulses to various parts of the body.

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