Could You Get PTSD from the COVID-19 Pandemic?

July 31, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic is a major stressor for a lot of us. Some people respond to it more intensely than others, causing anger, fear, irritability, and nightmares. These reactions can have a long-term effect on some and may lead to PTSD.

What is PTSD?
PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying event (e.g. physical/sexual assault, natural disaster, terrorist attack). It may last for months or years, with triggers that bring back memories of the trauma.

People suffering from PTSD may experience nightmares, heightened reactions to certain situations, anxiety, depression, and flashbacks (feelings that the trauma is going back again).

How can COVID-19 pandemic cause PTSD to some people?
Many people associate PTSD with war but the condition is not really about the traumatic event; it’s about one’s reaction to the event. Whether it’s a natural disaster or a pandemic, PTSD can be triggered by the same fears and emotions attached to a different traumatic event.

The current pandemic can bring up similar fears of those who have experienced trauma in their lives – the fear of being harmed and losing loved ones, the lack of control, and panic.

Who are at risk for PTSD?
COVID-19 pandemic may cause PTSD in some of the vulnerable groups, including:

  • those who have lost a loved one
  • COVID-19 survivors
  • frontline workers
  • those who have been affected economicallyWhat are the symptoms to watch out for?
    People who experience trauma may exhibit symptoms like flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty falling and staying asleep, hypervigilance, and irritability.

If you are experiencing these symptoms, it’s very important to seek help. Your mental health is as important as your physical health.

How to cope healthily?
This is a tough time and for many of us, the pandemic is a big stressor affecting us physically, mentally, and emotionally. But there are things we can do to manage this distress. Some of the healthy ways to do that include:

Practicing self-care
With so much going on, it’s important to set a time each day for practicing self-care. Whether it’s meditation, doing your favorite workouts, or even doing your hobby. These are healthy ways to self soothe.

Helping others
Helping others is one good way to stay less anxious during this troubling time. It creates feelings of hope and enhances feelings of social connection.

Getting health
There’s nothing wrong about seeking help. Many therapists are now offering telehealth services so you can get the help that you need even if you’re at home.