February 8, 2024

Acute Health Conditions and how we can help

What are acute health conditions?

Acute health conditions refer to those which can be severe and occur suddenly. This can range from a broken leg to an asthma attack or even Covid-19. They can either appear once and not return, or they may occur periodically but only at certain times. These contrast with long-term or chronic health conditions, which require ongoing management over a period of months or years, such as diabetes, psoriasis or multiple sclerosis.

Acute health conditions can have a negative impact on mental health. They can interrupt our daily routines, prevent us from doing things we enjoy and value, require us to take time off work and generally make our lives more challenging. Additionally, the unexpected nature of acute health conditions can be particularly difficult.

Common psychological reactions to acute health conditions are frustration, sadness, worry, stress and anxiety. More severe and less common reactions include depression, PTSD, acute stress reaction and adjustment disorder. It is important to remember that psychological distress in response to a health difficulty is perfectly normal and to be expected, and that more serious reactions are treatable with talking therapies.


Specific symptoms can vary enormously depending on the type of physical health condition, your individual experiences before and after the condition and your personality. However, it is not uncommon for people to have increased experiences of anxiety, depressive symptoms and feelings of stress. If these difficulties are very intense, overwhelming or last for more than a couple of weeks, it may help to speak to a mental health professional to see whether you require any specific psychological support.


In conjunction with any medical treatment for your physiological symptoms, you can also have psychological therapy to ease your mental health related symptoms. Therapeutic options will vary depending on the symptoms that you have, but commonly cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (CAT) are used to help people with physical health difficulties. Speaking to a therapist will help you get a clearer understanding of what might work for you.

Acute Health Conditions - Five facts

  1. Acute health conditions are any significant physical health problem that you experience as the result of either an illness or accident.
  2. There are certain conditions which are disputed as to whether they should be considered acute or chronic. However, many physicians will class a condition as acute if it has: “a sudden onset, sharp rise, and short course”.
  3. Acute health conditions will affect all of us during our lives and they do not predetermine a mental health condition.
  4. Difficulties with mental health resulting from acute health conditions are generally quite rare and most psychological reactions are perfectly normal and will ease with time
  5. Poor mental health should never be seen as a necessary side effect of an acute health condition. If you are struggling, it is always recommended that you speak to a doctor.

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