Everybody has been affected by Covid-19. It has re-written the rules of how we live regarding friends, family and working life. It has affected the way we shop, socialise and interact with people as a whole. It has caused the death of over 40,000 people to date and made many more thousands ill. Seeing a loved one suffer on their own or losing a loved one is traumatic and can result in trauma and or PTSD symptoms.
You might experience trauma symptoms which might include shock, denial, flashbacks, hyperarousal or feeling unsafe or generally anxious. Experiencing trauma symptoms or Post Traumatic Stress is not the same thing as experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Most people will experience some trauma symptoms in the aftermath of something deemed to be traumatic. It is only when these trauma symptoms are experienced for over four weeks that they might be described as being part of a PTSD diagnosis. PTSD symptoms might be experienced months or years after the traumatic incident. Someone may not experience trauma symptoms after a traumatic incident but they can manifest, weeks, months or years after the trauma particularly if they experience another related traumatic incident. PTSD symptoms include:
Intrusion symptoms – these might include: recurrent intrusive memories and dreams related to the traumatic incident, flashbacks, physiological and psychological distress.
Persistent avoidance – Avoiding thoughts, feelings and physical symptoms which trigger memories of the traumatic incident. You might try to avoid external reminders including people, places and activities.
Negative Alterations in thoughts and moods - You might experience negative beliefs about yourself, other people or the world at large. You might feel detached from others and blame yourself for the traumatic incident or lose interest in activities which you used to enjoy or have difficulty experiencing positive emotions or happiness.
Alterations in arousal and reactivity - You might experience irritable or aggressive behaviour, engage in self destructive behaviour or feel easily startled or feel constantly on guard or have difficulty concentrating and sleeping.
Causes of PTSD during the Covid-19 Pandemic.
Anyone can experience trauma or PTSD symptoms. People who have more direct contact with Covid-19 in relation to losing loved ones, patients or friends are more likely to be adversely affected by it. There are a number of different causes of PTSD specifically related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The following situations can be traumatic or contribute to PTSD symptoms.
Working on the front line as a healthcare worker can put someone in a number of scenarios which are traumatic. Witnessing patients or colleagues dying can be traumatic. Having to put yourself in harm’s way whilst witnessing death could be a traumatising experience.
Experiencing symptoms which may or may not be related to Covid-19 could be traumatic. Being given a Covid-19 diagnosis or living with someone who has Covid-19 with the threat of catching it or worrying about their health can be very difficult. Ending up in hospital without the support of family and friends with a threat to life can be traumatic. Experiencing days or weeks in an unconscious or conscious state can cause mental as well as physically difficulties.
Even if you are not on the front line in relation to Covid-19 living in isolation can be very difficult. Without the support of family, friends and medical and psychological services we have to rely on contact through technology or no contact at all. We need this contact for support and to help us to maintain a sense of self, perspective, purpose and meaning. In our lives. We achieve this through work, hobbies, family or friends. Without this support life gets more difficult and challenging. We might find psychological difficulties, which have been under control, become more prevalent in the wake of isolation during Covid-19. Examples of psychological difficulties might include old trauma, PTSD, OCD, eating disorders or abandonment and complex trauma issues.
With the added pressure of living life without our usual validation activities and contacts we might also experience additional stresses. These can include sleeping problems, worrying about family and friends in vulnerable groups or sending our children back to school. We might find that we no longer have a steady income or our job is under threat adding difficulties around identity and whether or not you are going to be able to support your family.
Use social media to stay connected. Be selective on who you follow and what information you take in. Social media can be as destructive as it is helpful. Use it sparingly.
Technology also enables us to stay connected through video links. Skype, Zoom and Facetime provide an easy way to stay connected with friends, family and work. You might try out some online games for fun. Isolating oneself is a trauma defence so it is very important to stay connected to other people.
Take regular exercise whether it is a walk nature or something more strenuous. Exercise helps to reset our breathing and reduces stress hormones on our bodies.
What to do if you feel that you might be suffering from PTSD?
If you feel like you are suffering from PTSD symptoms get professional psychological help from a trauma therapist and consult your local doctor.
See more about PTSD Treatment