Updated: Apr 11
It’s fair to assume that we’ll all be able to look back on the year 2020 and remember who we were with, what we were doing, and how we felt when the world was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For many, the pandemic brought moments of insecurity, fear, and hopelessness. But for others, the effects were much more severe and long-lasting. So much so, that new reports have surfaced about individuals experiencing something called post-COVID-19 PTSD.
If there is such a thing as post-Covid PTSD, can we blame it for the mental health crisis that the United States is facing in 2022?
Well, the mental health crisis in the U.S. has actually been a raging war on Americans long before COVID-19 came into the picture. In fact, the numbers for mental health-related issues have been on the rise for nearly 20 years now. From 2004 to 2019, the United States saw a steady annual increase in the number of suicides committed each year. The U.S. also saw a consistent increase from 2011 to 2022 in the number of Americans who would confess to haven seriously consider suicide at some point. And perhaps even more shocking was the report that psychological distress among 18-25-year-olds had increased by 75% between the years 2008 and 2017.
It’s clear that the mental health crisis in the U.S. has unfortunately been on the rise long before Covid came into the picture.
But just because COVID-19 can’t be solely blamed for the ever-increasing mental health crisis in the United States, doesn't mean we shouldn’t attribute it as a very large accomplice to what we’re seeing in 2022.
The World Health Organization found that Covid triggered a 25% increase in anxiety and depression among individuals worldwide. The most heavily hit by this increase were women and young people. NCHS statistician, Sally Curtin, reported that phone calls made to suicide hotlines were up 800% during the pandemic.
So yes, Covid had a negative contribution to the nation's mental health crisis and left many Americans worse off than before.
But what is post-Covid PTSD? And what can someone struggling with this mental ailment do to combat it?
What is Post Covid PTSD?
According to Cedars-Sinai psychiatrist, Dr. Itiai Danovitch, PTSD involves memories from a traumatic incident in which said memories don’t fade or diminish, but rather remain present in our minds, intensifying over time. These memories have the power to influence our emotions and thoughts, and even able to properly function as we used to before the said incident.
The same Cedar-Sinai report also noted that the most clearly seen symptoms associated with PTSD include:
Hyperarousal and reactivity
Possible association with depression
Possible association with anxiety
Possible association with substance abuse
National lockdowns, occupational layoffs, mask mandates, emerging variants, financial decline, and Americans dying from a worldwide pandemic, certainly make up the correct ingredients of a legitimate traumatic experience.
With that said, there can’t be many surprises upon hearing the reports of an increasing number of individuals suffering from what we’re now calling “post-Covid PTSD”.
Cedar-Sinai calls the fall-out of Covid-19 “a textbook trigger for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD”.
According to Assistant Professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, Monika Dargis, growing numbers of PTSD among healthcare workers and first responders were the first to be reported when the pandemic started. Following them were Covid survivors, especially those with complicated hospitalizations. And of course, the third growing group to report PTSD were those who lost loved ones due to the COVID-19 virus.
5 Ways To Combat Post-Covid PTSD
If you’ve personally felt the effects of post-Covid PTSD, it’s important to know that you’re not alone and that there are actions you can take to combat this mental trial.
Dargis advises the following actions for individuals who are experiencing some level of post-Covid PTSD:
1. Get out of your house and back into the world.
According to Dargis, continuing to prolong your return to life as normal can actually increase or extend symptoms of PTSD.
2. Socialize With Others.
Matthew Lieberman, UCLA Psychology professor, places social connection next to food, water, and shelter when it comes to things vital to human life. In a similar fashion, the Mayo Clinic found that socialization was what helped humans fight loneliness, strengthen their memory and cognitive skills, boost happiness and well-being, and even increase life expectancy. Being around other people will be a necessary component in battling and conquering post-Covid PTSD.
3. Have grace on yourself.
Since each experience was slightly different, each recovery is going to look different. Dargis warns against the dangers of comparison, especially when dealing with post-Covid PTSD. Have grace on yourself and continue to be proactive towards getting yourself better, regardless of what's going on with others around you.
4. Be active and eat right.
Our physical well-being has a direct influence on our mental well-being. Therefore, making sure you’re feeding yourself with the proper nutrients and getting a healthy amount of exercise or movement will be extremely beneficial in combating post-Covid PTSD.
5. Utilize mental health resources around you.
There have never been more accessible mental health resources than there are today. Between facilities, apps, and even telehealth, there is more than one way for you to seek out the help you need to successfully combat post-Covid PTSD.
If you feel hopeless and are considering suicide please reach out for help to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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