How to deal with Covid related PTSD -
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The ongoing pandemic at hand has triggered several mental health, physical and economic concerns.

Nevertheless, it’s in the midst of a crisis where we can unite and learn from each other’s experiences. Throughout the year's humans have faced several pandemics, which unfortunately took the lives of millions of people across the world. Despite the advances in modern medicine, the Covid pandemic keeps on taking lives by the day. Aside from the death toll that we’re constantly reminded of, the pandemic revealed how brittle our mental health is and that we need to take better care of our psychological and physical health.

The Psychiatric Times wrote an article about the various traumatic stressors related to Covid in addition to severe stress exposure. The pandemic and the stress that accompanies it has led to depression, anxiety, stress disorder and other related trauma; -stress-related disorders. Those who lost loved ones during the pandemic and their livelihoods meet the criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD.

For medical health professionals, the strain of Covid has led to a fear of virus exposure, burnout and the emotional trauma of losing patients beyond the point of saving. In this blog post, we will be looking at PTSD and the effects thereof. In short, PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. But what does all of that mean, and how does PTSD affect an individual? Read more to find out.

People with PTSD may avoid situations or people who remind them of the traumatic event.

They may have strong adverse reactions to something as ordinary as a sudden loud noise or an accidental touch. A diagnosis of PTSD requires exposure to an upsetting, traumatic event. However, exposure could be indirect rather than first hand. For example, PTSD could occur in an individual who experiences or witnesses the suffering related to COVID-19. This could result in a higher prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder in the individual.

Statistics at a glance
  • 70% of adult’s experience at least one traumatic event during their lifetime
  • 20% of people experiencing a traumatic event during their lifetime will develop PTSD
  • About 8 million people have PTSD in a given year
  • 1 in 13 people will develop PTSD during their lifetime

Symptoms and Diagnosis

The symptoms of PTSD can be broken down into four main categories – Specific symptoms can vary in severity.

Intrusive thoughts

This includes repeated or unwanted memories, distressing dreams or flashbacks of the traumatic events. Flashbacks may be so vivid that patients feel like they are re-living those events.

Avoiding reminders

Avoiding reminders of traumatic events may include avoiding people, places, activities and situations that bring on distressing memories. Patients may avoid thinking or remembering the traumatic event and talking about what happened or how they feel about it.

Negative thoughts and feelings

These may include distorted beliefs about oneself or others. Patients also show less interest in activities they previously enjoyed or feeling detached or estranged from others.

Changes in physical and emotional reactions

Symptoms of changes in physical and emotional reactions (also called arousal symptoms) may include:
  • Being easily startled or frightened
  • Always being on guard for danger
  • Self-destructive behaviour, such as drinking too much or driving too fast
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Irritability, angry outbursts or aggressive behaviour
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame

Many people experience these symptoms described above after being exposed to traumatic events. People are diagnosed if the symptoms last more than a couple of months or even years. Many of these symptoms occur after three months of the trauma, but other symptoms may appear later. For patients dealing with PTSD, the symptoms cause significant distress or cause functioning problems. PTSD often occurs with other related conditions, such as depression, substance use, memory problems and other physical and mental health problems.

What are the treatments for PTSD?

When you are suffering from PTSD, you might feel like you’ll never get your life back. But PTSD can be treated, and you can regain control. Short- and long-term psychotherapy and medications can work very well. Often, the two kinds of treatment are more effective together. It is, however, essential to know that not everyone who experiences a traumatic event develops PTSD.

For some, the symptoms of PTSD fades over time, and other people will get better with the help of friends and family. Still, many people do require assistance from a professional. It is important to remember that trauma may lead to severe distress. That distress is not the individual's fault, and PTSD is treatable. The earlier a person gets treatment, the better the likely outcome.

Zwavelstream clinic offers a wide range of treatments related to depression, anxiety and PTSD. We understand the importance of robust support systems to assist in a renewed well-being.

Therefore we help patients in the following:
  • Mixed therapeutic procedures and treatment programs
  • Adolescent and youth programs
  • Frequently encountered mental health conditions.

You can read more about the various therapeutic treatments and programs available at ZwavelStream’s website. At the clinic, you'll receive all the necessary support in a relaxing environment that allows you to reconnect and rejuvenate. We've got Pastoral care available to all religious denominations. For the best mental health care, visit Zwavelstream clinic, situated in Pretoria, Gauteng.

The three main goals of PTSD:
  • To improve your symptoms
  • To teach you coping mechanisms
  • To restore your self-esteem

Most PTSD therapies fall under the same umbrella of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). The idea is to change the thought patterns that are disturbing your life. This might happen through talking about your trauma or concentrating on where your fears come from.

The Link between PTSD and Co-Occurring Disorders

Many mental health disorders can occur with PTSD due to significant brain functioning changes following a traumatic event that leads to PTSD. Someone struggling with PTSD may experience depression, anxiety or substance use disorders. Let us break down each sub-category and briefly discuss each one on its own.

PTSD and Depression

Depression is a common mental health concern, with approximately 1 in 10 people having some form of depressive disorder every year. Depression is more common among people who experience traumatic events. PTSD and depression frequently co-occur, as people with PTSD are 3 to 5 times more likely to have a depressive disorder.

PTSD and Anxiety

Though now considered a different type of disorder, PTSD was previously categorized as an anxiety disorder. This association was made because PTSD and anxiety disorders share some symptoms, impairing sleep and other essential biological functions. Someone with PTSD-related anxiety may also always feel on edge and be easily startled. Additionally, stress caused by PTSD can make it difficult to concentrate or increase agitation.

PTSD and Substance Abuse

PTSD and substance abuse often co-occur. One study estimates that 46.4 per cent of people with PTSD also meet the criteria for a substance use disorder. PTSD and alcohol use disorders may be more closely related to alcohol's legality, making it more easily accessible than other substances. A study found that women with PTSD were 2.48 times more likely to misuse alcohol, while men with PTSD were 2.06 times more likely.

PTSD and adjustment disorders

Adjustment disorders occur when the emotional or behavioural symptoms a patient experience in response to the stressor are generally more intense than what would be reasonably expected for the type of event that occurred. The stressor could be a single event or more than one with a cumulative effect. These stressors could affect a single individual or an entire family, typically treated with psychotherapy.

When to seek medical attention:

If left untreated, PTSD can make life's day to day activities significantly more difficult. Any person that has experienced or witnessed a traumatic event could have difficulty adjusting and coping with those traumatic events. At first, it might seem like a daunting task to ask someone for help, and maybe you don't want people to know that you have PTSD for fear of being judged or treated differently.

If you're experiencing any of the problems listed above or think you may struggle with PTSD, get help. If you're hiding your PTSD from loved ones, try to find a person you trust to talk to about what's going on.

At ZwavelStream Clinic, we strive to provide our patients with a mixed therapeutic model of psychiatric care to discover a renewed sense of wellness that extends beyond mental health. Our mental health clinic was inspired by the desire to provide a psychiatric unit in an environment that "de-institutionalizes and de-stigmatizes" mental health hospitals.

There's no shame in seeking treatment for PTSD. It's an act of great courage to take that first step and reach out. At ZwavelStream Clinic, we provide a safe space for those looking for just this kind of support and guidance.

So if you recognize yourself or someone you love may need help, please contact us.


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