COVID-19 and PTSD: Who’s at Risk, Prevention Tips

26 Jun

social distance

With everything terrible happening due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including medical trauma, deaths, mourning, worrying, loss of livelihoods, lost of access to necessary services and items, strain on families, aggressive interpersonal encounters, missed life events, crushed dreams, and fear the for future, I’ve wondered all along if the entire world is going to have collective post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Even the lack of human contact, missed hugs from loved ones, missed goodbyes, fathers not, and the inability to see someone’s smile under their mask are taking a huge toll.

I cried on my way to work one day, as I drove by a desperate business’s shoddy giant sign reading, “WE’RE OPEN.”

I wonder how the pandemic contributed to the overdose death of a former student of mine this month. Her friends, whom I care deeply for, are grieving. I’m grieving for it all.

So much trauma.

I’ve been wanting to write about this for weeks, but have felt underqualified to talk about PTSD. So I’ve compiled some articles to spotlight the mental health pandemic I’m certain is aligning with the pandemic virus.

What is PTSD? Definition, Signs, and Symptoms

The Mayo Clinic’s overview of this mental health disorder.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Articles on PTSD and COVID-19

Could you get PTSD from your pandemic experience? The long-term mental health effects of coronavirus (includes tips on how to “flatten the mental health curve”)

“Even if you aren’t directly affected by Covid-19, the pandemic has been a significant stressor on everyone’s lives, Alyssa Rheingold, clinical psychologist and professor at the Medical University of South Carolina who specializes in trauma, tells CNBC Make It. Indeed, there could be long-term consequences to the stress, anxiety, and fear that has overwhelmed the globe for months.”

The pandemic will cause PTSD for some. Here’s what we can do about it (discusses who may be at greater risk for PTSD)

“While there are differences between what happened on 9/11 and what’s happening now, she said the emotions people are experiencing are similar, including anxiety, fear, lack of control, and panic, as well as fear of death.”

How can the COVID-19 pandemic affect PTSD? (has tips for people with existing PTSD)

“The COVID-19 pandemic has many potential sources of trauma, such as experiencing the death of a loved one. For some people, this can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can also exacerbate existing PTSD symptoms.”

A Relevant Tangent

In my searching, I found this article about the military’s take on PTSD and changing its name to PTS. I can see both sides. The military is one of many populations where mental health is not as often talked about. Reducing the stigma can enable important conversations and awareness. However, removing the word “disorder,” and thereby softening perception of the condition’s severity, hinders awareness and access to services. This is similar to how some in the disabled community (myself included) are taking back the word “disabled” rather than using “person with a disability” to combat the shift from the word “disability” to “difference” and thereby downplaying the severity of our very real difficulties (which often is merely to make able-bodied people more comfortable and less empathically engaged).
The disappearing “disorder”: why PTSD is becoming PTS

“Some veterans agree, but others — fearful the name change is simply a way of minimizing what they’re going through — don’t. ‘It’s a double-edged sword,’ a long-time Army psychiatrist says privately. ‘We’re trying to reduce the stigma associated with the condition, but it’s in the DSM-4 [the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), the accepted roster of various mental conditions] as PTSD. And some veterans fear that deleting disorder will jeopardize the VA benefits they get for it.'”

Back to Prevention and Helpful Tips

How to prevent trauma from becoming PTSD

“Studies have shown a correlation with the development of PTSD and avoidance behaviors. In other words, the more one tries not to think about a traumatic event, resists revisiting a traumatic place, and avoids contact with any potential triggers of the traumatic event, the more likely one is to develop PTSD.”

How to cope with traumatic events like coronavirus

“While the symptoms of traumatic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) look very similar immediately following a disaster or disturbing event, they progress very differently. As unpleasant as the symptoms of traumatic stress can be, they tend to gradually improve over time, especially if you take steps to care for your emotional health.”

How I’m Coping

My biggest coping mechanism to handle my own trauma right now is to stay on my purpose. I wrote this article about finding and following your purpose: What’s Your Purpose?

And I’m gardening.

Yesterday, I named my back yard the Gratitude Garden. Here are some happy ideas for your outdoor space: 10 tips for attracting butterflies to your back yard and Bird feeders as feng shui energy attractors


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