The past few years have been incredibly stressful for all of us. From health and safety concerns, a deal with death or illness from friends and family, navigating financial hardship due to job loss or having to constantly adjust to school closings and child care disruptions, life has been a non-stop roller coasterrollercoaster of stress and worry. Consequently, the ssome people can even dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by all the stressors.
“Usually with trauma, there’s something that comes to you that puts your body into fight, flight, or freeze mode, but with COVID, it’s an invisible threat,” said Stephanie Stathas, a licensed professional counselor. Thriveworks, specialized in trauma treatment. In recent years, Stathas has seen a significant increase in people seeking treatment, many of whom suffer from trauma-related symptoms such as anxiety, depression, irritability, and sleep disorders.
Unrelenting stress can cause PTSD symptoms
PTSD tends to develop in the weeks following a traumatic event, although it can sometimes appear months or years later. Symptoms include hyper-vigilance, avoidance or emotional numbing, flashbacks, nightmares, irritability, anxiety, depression and may also include physical symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness or stomach aches.
Although we typically think of PTSD as developing after a specific traumatic event, such as surviving a car accident or violent assault, people can also develop the condition after repeated exposure to stressful or traumatic events. If the traumatic events were ongoing, with no possibility of escape, this can lead to what is known as complex PTSD, which has symptoms similar to PTSD but can also include feelings of guilt, shame, or uselessness; a decrease in the ability to regulate emotions; and problems forming and maintaining healthy relationships. “It no longer becomes a single incident, now you have all these incidents, and all of them combined make PTSD complex,” Stathas said.
Complex PTSD often develops in people who grew up in abusive environments, had an abusive relationship as an adult, or went through another period of similar prolonged stress that they could not escape. Given the widespread nature of the pandemic, the symptoms people are struggling with are often the result of constant stress.
However, as experts are beginning to point out, the the pandemic is unique stress factor this will have its own pattern of trauma-related symptoms. Some experts have already coined the term COVID stress syndromewhich includes fear about getting infected, fear on the financial impact of the pandemic; fear others who may be infected; compulsive control and reassurance seeking; and another related stress symptoms in the pandemic
As Stathas points out, it’s uncertainty and unpredictability of recent years this has been incredibly stressful. “All these changes, all the time, you just go into these feelings of powerlessness and helplessness in the face of something, and that’s hard,” Stathas said. “Just having a sense of control over something can help us feel better, but to go more than two years without that, it’s scary.”
What to do if you are experiencing PTSD
If the stressors of the past few years have reached a point where it is having a negative impact in your personal relationships, in your health and physical well-being, or ignition your general emotional state, it is important to seek help sooner rather than later.
“Whenever it comes to you, and you don’t know why, look at what you haven’t addressed, what’s not resolved,” Stathas said. “He’s going to catch up. I see it all the time.”
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to find someone who is trained in dealing with trauma, such as there are several different treatment options. Some of the more common types of therapy for PTSD include cognitive behavioral therapy, cognitive processing therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy, etcyou movement dsensitizing irelectronic processing (EMDR therapy)..
Depending on your preferences, one type may work better than another. Many therapists will be trained in various types and can tailor each one’s strategies to your needs. “There’s no shame in doing therapy,” Stathas said. “It’s no different than going to a doctor to take care of your medical well-being. Mental health and well-being are equally important.”