When we emerge from our current phase of the COVID-19 crisis, the emotional effects will last long after the crisis is over. Depending on your experience and the way you process trauma, you may develop the symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Why? PTSD can result from:
Exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violation:
· Directly experiencing the traumatic events
· Witnessing, in person, the traumatic events
· Learning that the traumatic events occurred to a close family member or close friend; cases of actual or threatened death must have been violent or accidental
· Experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic events (Examples are first responders collecting human remains; police officers repeatedly exposed to details of child abuse).
Our current crisis places most people at risk due to exposure to actual or threatened death and serious injury (the actual illness of COVID-19). Once you have exposure to trauma, you may experience one or more of the following:
· Spontaneous or cued recurrent, involuntary, and intrusive distressing memories of the traumatic events
· Recurrent distressing dreams in which the content or affect (i.e. feeling) of the dream is related to the events
· Flashbacks or other dissociative reactions in which the individual feels or acts as if the traumatic events are recurring
· Intense or prolonged psychological distress at exposure to internal or external cues that symbolize or resemble an aspect of the traumatic events
· Physiological reactions to reminders of the traumatic events
Any disaster, crisis, or traumatic event can set you up for experiencing the symptoms of PTSD. These symptoms can appear during this crisis and can appear up to several months or even years afterwards. More symptoms of PTSD can include:
· Problems with memory, concentration, and the ability to focus.
· Persistent fear, horror, anger, guilt, blame or shame
· Irritable, aggressive, reckless, or self-destructive behavior
· Difficulties with sleep including difficulty falling or staying asleep or restless sleep
· Hypervigilance (perhaps this will include increased germophobia)
· Distortion of beliefs or expectations about yourself or others
· Inability to experience emotions including emotions that are pleasurable
· Lack of interest or participation in significant activities
The symptoms of PTSD can severely impact your ability to function socially, at work, at school, and in daily life. When you notice that your ability to function has been reduced due to symptoms of PTSD, it’s time to reach out for help.
If you are in California, you can contact me by calling 510-345-1731, through Messenger, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through my website at www.jasonranieri.com/contact. I’m offering individual sessions online during this crisis. If you are outside of California, try finding a therapist on Psychology Today at www.psychologytoday.com.
If your symptoms are especially severe that you are experiencing a psychological emergency or at risk from imminent self-harm including suicide, contact 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. Alternatively contact the National Suicide hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ so you can chat online with someone.