In Unit 2 we learned that crisis is a state of acute emotional upset during which one's usual problem-solving ability fails. Typically, it is manifested in an inability to cope with intense emotions such as fear of going crazy, to think clearly, and to conduct oneself appropriately.
Crisis doesn't occur spontaneously; it is the final stage along a continuum of behavioral and emotional responses. As stressors pile up, the individual's coping mechanisms begin to break down, slowly at first, and then with increasing rapidity until the proverbial final straw that breaks the camel's back.
Individual responses to stressful or threatening events vary. Some may move toward an acute crisis level very slowly, others more quickly. The important thing to remember is that, with appropriate and timely intervention, acute crisis can often be avoided.
The challenge for nurses is recognizing when an individual is moving toward crisis, where they are along the crisis continuum, and applying interventions that de-escalate, not escalate, the persons response to stressful or traumatic events.