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Coronavirus and Its PTSD Connection
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist Dr. Patricia A. Farrell -- Psychologist
Tenafly , NJ
Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Dr. Patricia A. Farrell

Coronavirus and Its PTSD Connection


The coronavirus (Covid-19) is spreading around the world and killing people. Governments know that It is reaching epidemic proportions that will cause all of us concern, but for some individuals, it will be worse than a concern; it will be Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.


PTSD is a serious anxiety disorder usually associated with fearful occurrences in one's life, such as car accidents, natural disasters, or life-threatening events. But we know that it can be generated by not experiencing the event directly but viewing the event (TV) or reading about it (media) or even hearing about the experiences of others.


Two forms where the event is at a distance and not directly experienced are vicarious PTSD, such as healthcare workers treating someone. Secondary PTSD exposure when people hear about first-hand experiences of others. Neither should be dismissed or downplayed since it is a bona fide, serious disorder that can last a lifetime.


Usually, we don't associate PTSD with medical illness, but the coronavirus has changed our thinking, and we need to reconsider this serious anxiety disorder in that virus' context. The virus may result in a mental health crisis on our doorsteps. How do we handle it, and are we recognizing it?


What Are the Symptoms of PTSD


The symptoms of PTSD can be immediate or delayed in its onset, and this is where we must be more vigilant in appropriate diagnosis. Some clinicians will mistakenly see the symptoms as some other form of mental difficulty.


The primary symptoms include most of the following:


Anger, often of an inappropriate type

Depression which appears to have no basis in fact

 Loss of concentration

Increased startle and hypervigilance



Emotional numbing

Lack of trust

Suicidal ideation may be present


Distressing nightmares


How Does the Body React in a PTSD Situation?


PTSD is not purely psychological because the body's defense system is intimately involved, and it is here that the disorder begins. We are wired to defend our lives, and our brain and body go into immediate action toward that goal.


The underlying biological symptoms include the release of stress-responsive hormones (cortisol and norepinephrine). These two hormones can boost the heart rate and decrease the efficiency of the immune system. Therefore, PTSD can leave us prone to more physical illnesses.  


Why PTSD from Coronavirus?


The major forces driving anxiety are the unknown factors regarding:


How the virus is communicated

How long is the period of incubation before symptoms

What is the fatality rate

Can it be caught more than once

How long can it live on surfaces

Will quarantine be needed and for how long

Will personal finances be affected

Will the virus jeopardize our economy and will our financial institutions begin to fail


The psychological effects of quarantine can also have an impact on one's mental health and lead to other symptoms. Even in the best of circumstances, extended quarantine, according to multiple studies, has significant psychological problems.


An article in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, indicated: "After quarantine, many participants continued to engage in avoidance behaviours. For health-care workers, being quarantined was significantly and positively associated with avoidance behaviours, such as minimising direct contact with patients and not reporting to work."


How to Protect Yourself


The most crucial step to take to avoid falling into the grip of PTSD is to inform yourself. Information, however, must come from authoritative sources such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO).


Follow the guidelines they provide and remember that you have a life to live, things you enjoy and the people you love.

Contact your family, friends, and co-workers. Maintain your connections

Engage in simple exercises in your home, if you prefer

Get enough sleep and watch your diet

Use relaxation breathing

Continue with your hobbies

Avoid alcoholic beverages as a means to cope with the fear of the virus

Avoid excessive media attention. Maintain enough to keep up to date, but don't overload yourself to the point that all you see is the negative aspects of the illness. Binge-watching TV coverage is not recommended


Fear is fed by a lack of information. You have the means to control it, so begin to use the steps I've provided to help you through this rough period in all of our lives.



Website: www.drfarrell.net

Author's page: http://amzn.to/2rVYB0J

Medium page: https://medium.com/@drpatfarrell

Attribution of this material is appreciated.

Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist
Dr. Patricia A. Farrell, Ph.D., LLC
Tenafly, NJ
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