Health Wise: The Pandemic and PTSD

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We know the pandemic is having a massive effect on the mental health of a significant portion of the population, and we’ve talked about the anxiety, fear, anger, and sadness that many of us have experienced throughout COVID19. We wanted to talk about one very difficult and specific mental health condition that appears to have spiked during the pandemic- PTSD.

Many of us have heard the term PTSD (which stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). We used to hear about it most in relation to soldiers coming back from war. We’ve now come to understand that PTSD can be caused by many other traumatic events, like witnessing or experiencing violence and other situations where there is a perceived threat to life. Any event that causes emotional distress and fear can cause a trauma reaction such as PTSD. A person with PTSD perceives many aspects of the world as threatening due to an event that made a person feel deeply unsafe. PTSD and other trauma-related conditions don’t develop for everyone who has experienced a traumatic event. Factors like genetics, psychiatric history, coping abilities, and social support play a factor in whether someone is likely to develop PTSD.

So, let’s talk about how the pandemic has contributed to a rise in PTSD and other trauma-related problems.

Why does the pandemic put us at risk for PTSD?

COVID19 poses a very real threat to our health, has caused a large number of deaths, and continues to endanger us and our loved ones despite attempts to control it, puts in on the list of potentially traumatic events. Fear of illness, seeing loved ones suffer or pass, isolation, and job loss can all be considered traumatic events. The sense of lack of control, fear, and threat to life is the perfect formula to lead to PTSD. What’s more, there seems to be no end in sight.

Its no wonder then that the current pandemic has acted as a trigger to many of those already living with PTSD. It has increased a sense of danger in the world, and those with PTSD are often sensitive to any signs of danger.

Why is it important to address PTSD symptoms?

This pandemic will end one day, but PTSD often continues long after the traumatic event that caused it - for months, years, or decades if not addressed. Since anxiety tends to feed on itself if it’s not treated, PTSD can worsen over time rather than improve spontaneously.

How can you know if you have PTSD?

Meeting with a therapist or going through psychological testing can help determine if a PTSD diagnosis is appropriate. There are severalsymptom lists, that you can consult. However, we encourage getting an official diagnosis if you are experiencing significant symptoms such as intrusive thoughts, nightmares, avoidance of situations that remind you of the trauma, and emotional numbness.

What can you do if you feel you have PTSD or other trauma-related difficulties?

Seek out professional help, including counseling or psychiatric services. Therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT),Exposure Therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprogramming (EMDR), and mindfulness approaches can be very effective for PTSD. Some medications can help with severe symptoms as well. Self-care is strongly encouraged, especially incorporating mindfulness techniques like meditation, yoga, deep-breathing, and exercise into everyday life. Having adequate social support can be extremely important as a person starts to recover.

As the pandemic continues, so does the fear and anxiety it brings. This is a deeply traumatic and impactful situation for us all, and we all need a little extra support and self care these days. For those of us experiencing more severe trauma reactions like PTSD, there are many resources available. We at Still Waters Counseling are here for you. Here’s to moving forward and healing!

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