PTSD at a time of a pandemic

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health concern that is directly as a result of a catastrophic or traumatic event.

During the COVID19 pandemic of 2020, lots of people have experienced loss of loved ones, adverse impact directly or indirectly by the disease, by the lockdown, loss of jobs, and isolation. Anxiety levels and stress levels have increased during the pandemic. Stays in the intensive care units during the treatment of COVID19 respiratory disease have been linked with PTSD.

PTSD is caused by stress from a traumatic event that exposes the affected person to extreme fear, scare, or helplessness. When recovery from the stress of the traumatic event does not return to baseline functionality, the person may develop persistent symptoms of PTSD.

Symptoms

Symptoms of PTSD include flashbacks of the traumatic event, recurring thoughts or dreams, night terrors, sleep disorder, sleep walking, anxiety, depression, anger, behavior disorder, avoidance behavior, or depersonalization (not feeling like oneself).

Factors that promote recovery include good social support system, good coping skills, and a conducive and low stress environment.

Acute stress

Acute stress disorder is similar to PTSD with the exception that acute stress disorder lasts less than 4 weeks. If symptoms persist for more than 4 weeks, PTSD may be present.

If there are symptoms suggestive of PTSD, professional help should be sought.

Diagnosis of PTSD is by a mental health therapist or provider.

Management

Treatment of PTSD may include coaching/support counseling or psychotherapy, mindfulness training, group therapy, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy, stress management, and or medications like antidepressants or symptom-directed medications.

Coping skills

Coping with stress includes: Adequate social support, adequate nutrition, exercise and sleep, loving and nurturing relationships, balance in work and play, managing one’s own expectations, and setting realistic goals.

Written by Dr. N. Onuoha

Resources

Shapiro, Francine
Journal of EMDR Practice and Research Vol 1 Issue
2, DOI: 10.1891/1933-3196.1.2.68

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