COVID-19 has left many people stressed and anxious, and this is a normal response to a traumatic event. It’s important that people understand what this means from a mental health standpoint and how to cope with it in healthy ways. Here are some important definitions and tips around the trauma of COVID-19.
Post Traumatic Stress vs. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are two different (though related) things. PTS is a normal reaction to a stressor, like how after a car accident somebody might have anxiety driving. It is made up of short-lived symptoms of anxiety and is a normal response; it just doesn’t affect your life in a pervasive way.
PTSD is when that anxiety becomes toxic and affects your everyday life. The symptoms of anxiety are unmanageable and last much longer: duration and severity are the main signs of PTSD. Think of it as steps up a severity ladder. PTS is at the bottom as a response to a traumatic event, and PTSD is at the very top.
COVID-19 as Trauma
COVID-19 is a traumatic event, and many people are experiencing PTS as a response, even if not a full-blown disorder. Trauma can be any distressing event, and there are many stressors associated with COVID-19, especially early on in the pandemic, that have had lasting effects on people. People losing jobs, losing loved ones, being unable to pay for homes, utilities or food and getting sick themselves all qualify as trauma, and that isn’t even an exhaustive list.
Coping with PTS
A lot of the things people should be doing to cope with PTS are things they should be doing every day anyway: eating properly, staying active, controlled breathing exercises, meditating and getting rest. It’s important to stay active and healthy so you don’t attempt to cope by sitting idly on the couch or, worse yet, abusing drugs or alcohol.
Another thing that people need to consider when coping with PTS as a result of COVID-19 specifically is getting vaccinated. A lot of COVID-19 PTS manifests itself as lingering habits from the pandemic such as wearing a mask, leaving large crowds of people, washing hands or social distancing. These are all healthy habits on paper, but they can become compulsive or obsessive as individuals near PTSD and refuse to leave the house out of fear. Getting vaccinated is an easy way to help ease these anxieties as you are protecting yourself from the virus.
If you find yourself beginning to have such anxiety and depression that it’s inhibiting your ability to function day-to-day, seek professional health. These could be signs that you’ve developed PTSD. In this case, simple coping skills will not be enough.
For more information on how to identify PTSD in your loved ones, visit our blog.