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CNS Spectr. 2003 Sep;8(9):668-74.

Acute stress reactions: can biological responses predict posttraumatic stress disorder?

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  • 1School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.


What biological responses characterize those acute trauma reactions that develop into chronic psychiatric disorder? The need to understand the genesis of posttraumatic psychological disorders has resulted in much attention on biological reactions in the initial aftermath of trauma exposure. This review outlines the prevailing biological models of acute stress reaction and critiques the available evidence concerning biological responses to trauma that are associated with subsequent psychological disorder. The roles of peritraumatic dissociation and vulnerability factors for acute stress reaction are also reviewed. The major challenges for research on psychobiological responses to trauma are highlighted.

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