COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on many people’s mental health — putting marriages and social lives under significant pressure. From anxiety about contracting the virus to the implications of losing one’s job or being isolated for extended periods, individuals all over the world are suffering from the effects of the pandemic.
Depression and anxiety are the most talked about conditions on the rise as a result of the global pandemic. Early research has indicated that the circumstances surrounding the virus and consequences of the virus (including loss of loved ones and others) may be causing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in individuals across all age groups, ethnicities, and geographic locations.
- 31% of couples are saying the quarantine was damaging to their relationship.
- Divorces soared 34% during the global pandemic.
With statistics like that, it’s easy to see you’re not alone with your marriage and relationship struggles during these trying times.
In this article, we’ll dive into what PTSD is, the different types of PTSD, treatments, and how to get help with PTSD so you can start healing.
Psychological Trauma Causes PTSD
Psychological trauma is a direct threat to a person’s life. While it can manifest in several ways from several circumstances, this threat includes sexual violence, significant physical injury, witnessing an immediate danger on one’s life, an unexpected death, or bodily injury to a person.
Psychological trauma isn’t rare — it’s common. 60-85% of people have experienced psychological trauma in their lifetime. There are many reactions to trauma. Sometimes sufferers have nightmares, intrusive thoughts, avoid reminders of the trauma, find themselves “on edge,” engage in self-blame, are fixated on safety concerns, and experience concentration issues and irritability.
PTSD develops after one experiences trauma, and the reactions continue after a month or longer. These reactions also cause severe disruption and stress in a person’s life. PTSD isn’t as common as traumatic experiences alone, however. Only 6% of men and 10% of women experience PTSD.
Trauma and the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our lives extensively — causing both physical and psychological symptoms.
Some people experience death — or threats of death — consistently. This would include those who work closely with the public in a role like the Suicide Prevention Hotline or public healthcare. In positions like these, these workers have the highest risk of contact, causing an increased amount of fear and worry.
And it’s not just the frontline workers of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Patients who do contract COVID-19 get placed in isolation, either at home or in the hospital. Patients also experience physical unrest and the fear of survival — increasing the chance of developing PTSD. Self-quarantine also poses a potential risk increase.
Lifetime History Predictors
Some aspects make a person more likely to develop PTSD than others. Some of these predictors include prior traumatic events or lifetime trauma load. This fact is especially true if one has experienced childhood trauma and adverse childhood events (ACEs).
ACE’s consist of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse, emotional and physical neglect, and witnessing violence, which is often towards one’s mother.
These forms of trauma and trauma experienced as an adult increase the risk for PTSD resulting from COVID-19.
Types of Trauma and Severity Predictors
Most people who experience trauma make a recovery within a month and don’t develop PTSD. The prediction of whether or not one will develop PTSD gets measured by the types and extent of the trauma exposure.
Those who have experienced perpetuated interpersonal violence have increased rates for the development of PTSD. These compare to people who have experienced fires, car accidents, and natural disasters.
Let’s take a look at some types of trauma and their severity predictors of developing PTSD.
- Natural disasters and automobile accident survivors have a 10% chance of development.
- Combat zone experience has an 18% chance of PTSD development.
- Physical assault or heavy combat experience survivors have a 30% chance.
- Sexual assault and torture victims have a 50% chance of development.
- Myocardial infarct / acute coronary syndrome survivors have a 15% chance of developing PTSD, and unanticipated discharge of cardiac defibrillation devices do as well.
- Major thoracic surgeries, even when anticipated and scheduled, also have a 20% chance.
- Extensive treatment in ICU also creates a high risk for PTSD development. 35% of ICU survivors develop the condition.
Symptoms of PTSD
Traumatic events — like COVID-19’s impact — can have a lasting effect on your health. However, because PTSD has many common symptoms, it can often be misdiagnosed.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common PTSD symptoms:
- Intrusive and recurrent memories of trauma
- Nightmares and flashbacks
- Avoiding reminders of the trauma
- Avoiding stressful memories of trauma
- Avoiding the people or location connected to the trauma
- Feelings of anger, guilt, or shame
- Losing interest in enjoyable activities
- Problems sleeping
Consequences of PTSD
There are consequences of PTSD, especially if left untreated for any length of time. PTSD can cause alterations in the autonomic nervous system, mainly an activity increase of the sympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system is the adrenaline system in the body that controls the “fight, flight, or freeze” response. PTSD also decreases the parasympathetic nervous system activity, which is the “rest or digest” response.
PTSD is also known to cause:
- Exaggerated activity in brain networks that signal threats and adverse emotional reactions.
- Decreasing activity in networks associated with problem-solving, executive control, and emotional regulation.
- Lowering activity in parts of the brain that signal reward.
When untreated, the condition can potentially go on for decades or the rest of a person’s life. People suffering from PTSD cannot simply”get over it,” and the condition can worsen over time in many cases. PTSD can disrupt a person’s life socially and in occupations, causing significant issues with jobs and relationships.
PTSD Is Treatable
The great news is treatment is available. Medications, including antidepressant medications and prazosin for treating nightmares, are effective options. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is also often used for processing trauma and reducing the lasting effects of PTSD.
CBT methods include eye-movement desensitization and reprogramming (EMDR), prolonged exposure therapy, and trauma-focused CBT.
Other types of psychotherapy can be helpful for some patients, including:
- Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
- Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT-C)
- Mindfulness-Based Therapies
- Present-Centered Therapy (PCT)
Let Us Help With Your PTSD
Here at Lisa Rogers Counseling, we offer a variety of treatment options. We are a New-York based practice, but we provide teletherapy in New York, California, Texas, Illinois, Vermont, New Jersey, and Florida.
Our services include:
- Adult Therapy: Individual, marriage, couples, group therapy
- Child Therapy: Group therapy, family therapy, social skills, play therapy
- Adolescent Therapy: Individual therapy, group therapy, family therapy, substance abuse
Contact us today for more information.