Has the Coronavirus Pandemic Triggered PTSD?
As Americans we are all still learning to adjust to the changes that the Coronavirus Pandemic has caused but will this pandemic leave longer lasting effects? Licensed Professional Counselor and Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Hannah Comeaux discussed this topic with me during the Moon Griffon Show.
"The Pandemic has caused a lot of fear and anxiety in many of us," says Hannah Comeaux of Comeaux Counseling & Consulting. "For those that have a history of trauma, this pandemic could very well trigger the same feelings and responses that they have dealt with in their past.
It also could depend on the level of trauma that the person has already experienced as to how much of an effect this pandemic could have on them. Most people that have been through chronic or severe trauma in the past such as abuse, childhood adversity or neglect, as well as veterans, may be more prone to the triggers and negative effects of this pandemic. For individuals that have been through natural disasters before, the feelings of being out of control, lack of stability, anxieties and other uncertainties, this can trigger greater emotional and physical responses."
I also asked her about PTSD - its meaning and how it affects people.
"PTSD is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which is exposure to a traumatic event or events that have caused a variety of symptoms both emotionally and physically," says Hannah Comeaux. "There are certain criteria that have to be met to be diagnosed with PTSD but today we are going to simply discuss the different types and effects of Trauma, in general.
Some people may have been through traumatic events and possibly didn’t identify it as traumatic because they may have blocked it out of their mind or they didn’t identify it as something that has affected them in a negative way. For others, trauma may have been normalized in their dysfunctional family in such as way that they didn’t even recognize it as trauma. When situations like this occur, you start having symptoms of severe anxiety, nightmares, panic attacks and other symptoms."
She breaks down 3 types of Trauma:
- Acute Trauma - a single incident that occurred such as an accident, grief or loss or natural disaster or something that you witnessed or experienced in your childhood or or as an adult. For those with acute trauma, you may have some difficulty adjusting and coping and it may take some time but those that have experienced acute trauma are more likely to be able to use coping skills and techniques to heal from the event a lot quicker than the other trauma event I am going to talk about today. Remember, even if it is a single event, the effects of it depends on the severity of the event as well as if you have processed it appropriately.
- Chronic Trauma - Reoccurring traumatic events, multiple events that have occurred. Usually traumatic events starting in your childhood that may continue to happen as you age at different points in your life. This type of trauma is a little harder to move past and heal from and although coping skills are beneficial, more therapeutic services and treatment is recommended.
- Severe/ Complex trauma - Severe traumatic event/events that have occurred. Some examples could be witnessing a murder, abuse, really anything that has happened to you that was very severe. Treatment is recommended, as well as seeing a licensed professional to help you process the events. EMDR is highly recommended for PTSD. EMDR is Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. It has had great effects with clients with PTSD. You will have to find a licensed clinician that is trained in EMDR. There are other popular treatments that are used with clients that have experienced trauma.
"The most important note to remember is that if you do not process the event or events appropriately you won’t be able to heal from it and you won't be able to move past it to the point where you no longer continue to have the negative effects in your life," says Hannah Comeaux. "Our brain stores trauma as a memory as if we are going to deal with it at a later date, but if we continue to put it off and don’t deal with it, it will manifest itself as physical and/or emotional symptoms.
What we don’t repair, we repeat!"
So, what can we do to cope? Here's what she recommends:
- Implement coping skills such as grounding techniques and guided imagery. There is a 5-4-3-2-1 Method which relates to your senses. This is a grounding technique that keep you present when feeling anxious or overwhelmed. You do this by imagining 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can touch and 1 thing you can taste.
- Remind yourself of the Fact over Feeling rule. Is how I’m feeling a fact or a feeling? Fear is a very real feeling and our feelings should be validated but we don’t want them to run the show. It is also a great way to keep things in perspective.
- Don’t be afraid to talk about your fears and anxiety. There are licensed clinicians like myself that are trained in EMDR and other treatment for PTSD.
You can listen to our interview by CLICKING BELOW: