Objective: To verify the official criteria of ICD-10 diagnosis of acute stress reaction (ASR) among earthquake victims.
Method: Data on psychosocial variables and the diagnosis of ASR were collected from 91 subjects.
Results: The diagnosis of ASR was made in 70% of the sample. However, the restrictive duration criterion (i.e. symptoms not exceeding the first 48 h) was fulfilled only in 10%; in the remaining 60% the symptoms lasted for about another week. Thus, 60% of the sample constituted a group with protracted ASR (PASR) and 40% a group without it (n-PASR). Medical history was more frequent among PASR than n-PASR; PASR showed higher anxiety levels (both pre- and post-disaster) than n-PASR; finally, the persistence of ASR related positively to the fear of death at the time of the earthquake and pre-disaster anxiety levels.
Conclusion: As in the vast majority of earthquake victims the ASR is protracted beyond 48 h, a revision of ICD-10 guidelines should be considered.