With over 29 million cases and 900,000 deaths worldwide as of September 2020, COVID-19 has devastated communities across the globe. The pandemic, which began in late 2019, has caused everyone from all walks of life to experience stress, anxiety, and loss. However, front-line and essential workers, like doctors, nurses, and grocery store workers, have often had to bear the brunt of the stress.
Unfortunately for many front-line workers, COVID-19 has led to another, less obvious pandemic: trauma. High levels of stress are causing healthcare providers to experience an increase in collective trauma and PTSD.
In this article, we’ll share information on trauma disorders, how they occur, and what healthcare and other front-line workers can do to cope with the emotional trauma of COVID-19.
What Is Trauma?
When someone experiences a highly stressful event or prolonged, stressful situations, it can be difficult for them to return to a normal state of mind after the event. For some individuals, the aftereffects of a traumatic experience never fully cease. In these cases, the person has developed what is known as a trauma disorder.
Trauma disorders are mental health conditions. One of the most commonly known trauma disorders is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). However, there are other types of disorders that can affect healthcare workers, such as Acute Stress Disorder (ASD).
What Are The Signs of Trauma Disorders?
Signs and symptoms of trauma vary from person to person, however some of the more common signs of trauma include:
- Behavioral changes, such as prolonged sadness, irritability, recklessness, and avoidance of specific triggers
- Intrusive thoughts, such as unwanted memories or vivid flashbacks
- Cognitive changes, such as ongoing fear, paranoia, and anxiety
These are only a select few symptoms of trauma, and disorders may present in a number of ways. Any prolonged change in mood or behavior after a traumatic event should prompt a conversation with your family physician or a mental health professional.
Learn more about trauma disorders by visiting our Education Center.
The Connection Between COVID-19 and Trauma
When we hear the word trauma or PTSD, it’s common to think of combat, violence, or destructive natural disasters. However, trauma can come as a result of many different events, including severe illness, the fear of illness, or the death of a loved one.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have experienced heightened levels of stress and fear. Further, studies are now showing individuals who have been infected by the virus, especially those who required hospitalization, are at a higher risk of suffering from trauma disorders. For front-line healthcare workers, the stress is amplified.
Healthcare Workers Experience Increased Trauma from COVID-19
Studies have shown that healthcare workers are at a significantly higher risk of COVID-19 infection than the general public. In addition, some healthcare workers endure the added challenge of helping critical care patients who are experiencing the worst symptoms of the virus. Together, this is leading to a significant rise in PTSD and burnout among nurses and doctors.
While the pandemic is a trying time for all of us, there are ways that we can all cope with the added stress and the trauma of COVID-19.
Trauma Coping Techniques
For those who are at a higher risk of experiencing acute stress leading to trauma, learning about trauma coping techniques is vital. Below you’ll find ways that you can prevent and cope with emotional trauma from the pandemic.
Connect With Your Supporters
While there are limitations on social interactions during the pandemic, finding support is a vital part of coping with and healing from trauma. For many of us, our first line of support is our family and friends. If you’re experiencing symptoms of trauma, connect with your loved ones. Fortunately, there are many virtual options for us to communicate.
For individuals working in the healthcare field, there are additional support groups available, many of which have websites with community forums or social media pages where you can connect with others to share your experiences. There are also support groups for those who have lost a loved one or survived infection from the virus. Remember, despite many people feeling isolated, there are still options available to connect with others during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Practice Stress Reducing Techniques
While a single event can cause trauma, it can also be a result of prolonged stress. During the pandemic, it’s important to find healthy ways to minimize your anxiety. There are many practices we can incorporate into our daily routines to help us feel less anxious, including:
Taking time to de-stress can help to both heal from trauma and reduce your risk of developing a trauma disorder.
Be Kind to Yourself
It’s easy to be hard on yourself when you’re stressed or healing from emotional trauma. In addition to this, the pandemic has made it even more difficult for each of us to maintain a sense of normalcy. This can make it difficult to practice regular self-care routines.
If you are experiencing trauma or heightened stress levels, avoid downplaying your emotions. Instead, remind yourself this is a challenging time, and it’s okay to feel scared, to worry, and to take extra time to address your emotional needs. Be kind to yourself. Practicing self-compassion will decrease the chance your negative emotions will linger or develop into further symptoms.
Seek Professional Care
Trauma of any type can take a heavy toll on our mental health, emotional well-being, and our relationships. When emotional trauma begins interfering with your daily life, it’s important to seek care from a mental health professional.
There are several types of trauma therapy options, including both in-person treatment and teletherapy. During the pandemic, teletherapy has become more common, with many therapists offering a virtual option for their patients.
Trauma Therapy & Treatment with High Focus Centers
At High Focus Centers, our clinicians, therapists, and staff work closely with individuals healing from traumatic experiences. Our team is happy to talk with you about in-person treatment at our locations across New Jersey and in Norwalk, Connecticut, or discuss online teletherapy options.
Contact us online or give us a call at (877) 791-3820 to learn more.