The stress of the COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging for most people. There’s the fear of being exposed to the virus. There’s worrying about the safety of our loved ones. There’s also the added concern over lost income, job security, and failing businesses. This invisible enemy is leaving a wake of devastation in its path, including the potential development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
PTSD might not be on the forefront of people’s minds, as it is something most commonly understood as a mental health condition that affects soldiers returning from war. PTSD, however, is actually a chronic psychiatric disorder that can occur in anyone who has experienced a traumatic event.
After the SARS outbreak in the early 2000s, healthcare workers and those who had to self-quarantine exhibited symptoms of PTSD. This has experts concerned that COVID-19 could have a similar effect. The interpretation of the pandemic and ones emotional response will play a key role in whether someone develops this long-lasting stress disorder.
While it may be normal to experience some symptoms associated with PTSD after a traumatic event like COVID-19, a formal diagnosis will not take place until a number of symptoms occur which last for a long period of time. Some common symptoms of PTSD include:
- Having intrusive thoughts like nightmares or upsetting memories and flashbacks
- Feeling irritable and stressed out
- Having trouble sleeping
- Becoming fearful of the world
- Being hyper vigilant, startling easily, being jumpy
How you handle the stress of COVID-19 will ultimately make a difference in how you cope. If you can create positive habits and reduce response patterns you can reduce your chances of developing PTSD. Here are a few tips on things you can do to promote good emotional health:
- Try not to think about worst-case scenarios and focus on the positives
- Exercise whenever possible and especially try to get outside
- Practice mindfulness and meditation to help avoid excess worry
- Keep a journal to allow you to express your feelings and be more aware of your thoughts
- Connect with family and friends over the phone or through video chat
- Practice good sleep habits including getting enough sleep
If you do experience symptoms of PTSD that persist, especially to the point where they are disrupting your day-to-day, it is important to seek help. A mental health professional will be able to diagnose you and begin a proper treatment plan. For PTSD this can be a combination of psychotherapy, alternative therapies, certain medications and ketamine infusions. Ketamine infusions specifically have been known to not only help with the existing symptoms of PTSD, but could potentially prevent the development of PTSD all together.