The impact of Coronavirus and the challenges of the last six months are unsurprisingly leading to an increase in cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) It is therefore key to ensure that those who develop PTSD and those around them are aware of the signs and symptoms and how to access support.
By bringing awareness and understanding to PTSD we can reduce stigma, demystify the condition, and hopefully, people will feel able to reach out for support.
What is PTSD
PTSD is a type of anxiety disorder that you may develop after traumatic events. You could witness or be directly involved in a threat to life, serious physical injury, violence, or an unexpected death. It impacts approximately 1 in 20 people in the UK.
It is natural to feel upset and confused after a traumatic event, as our brain tries to process the trauma, but most people improve after a few weeks. If you are still experiencing problems after 4 weeks, or if you're having extreme or worrying symptoms, it’s recommended you speak to your GP.
PTSD usually develops within six months of a traumatic incident but in some cases can develop years later. Therefore it is currently difficult to assess the numbers impacted with PTSD due to coronavirus.
Some people who may be more impacted due to the current situation could be:
those who were admitted to hospital
have loved ones that have been unwell or passed away due to coronavirus
work in a hospital or care home
spent lockdown with somebody who was abusive
Signs & Symptoms
PTSD can be diagnosed when someone develops symptoms which disrupt daily functioning and thus can result in a whole host of physical and psychological symptoms, including:
Reliving what happened, having flashbacks, dreams, or nightmares
Not being able to feel emotions
Not feeling connected to other people
Feeling unable to enjoy activities you used to enjoy
Staying away from situations which remind you of the event
Feeling on edge, panicky, upset, and startled easily
Feeling like nowhere is safe, always on the lookout for threats
Recovery from PTSD usually incorporates a mixture of professional support and self-care.
Trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy involves gradually “exposing” yourself to feelings and situations that remind you of the trauma, and replacing distorted and irrational thoughts about the experience with a more balanced picture
EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) incorporates elements of cognitive-behavioral therapy with eye movements or other forms of rhythmic, left-right stimulation, such as hand taps or sounds. These techniques work by “unfreezing” the brain’s information processing system, which is interrupted in times of extreme stress.
Medication is sometimes prescribed to people with PTSD to relieve secondary symptoms of depression or anxiety, although they do not treat the causes of PTSD.
When it comes to Self-care everyone is different. Do you know what works for you? A few ideas below:
Relaxation such as listening to relaxing music
Talking and connecting, sharing how you feel with someone you trust
Mindfulness and meditation. Helps you stay in the present & give your thinking mind a break, supporting you to process the trauma.
Eating healthy foods, having a balanced diet, and drinking enough water
Keep physically active. Exercise can help to reduce stress and anxiety. It can increase the levels of serotonin and endorphins which are your body’s natural ‘happy’ chemicals.
Sleep. Without regular sleep, your mental health can be affected.
Alcohol intake. Unhealthy drinking habits can lead to poor mental health. Some people self medicate by using alcohol to deal with their emotions.
Mood diary. This can improve awareness of your symptoms and what makes you feel better and worse. You can simply use a notebook, or you may want to try online resources or smartphone apps.
Hobbies. Find something you enjoy and can lose yourself in whilst doing, anything from crosswords to hiking.
Get outside read our post below about the benefits of being in nature.
If you feel you or someone you know may have PTSD contact your GP for support or PTSD UK where you will find a range of useful information and support.