Pandemics, like Covid-19, challenge the way that people cope. Our brains are designed to react to novel and unfamiliar things as threats. Fear of infection, a lack of understanding and a lack of control impact us on deep levels. For some people this can be considered a traumatic experience. However, it does not necessarily mean that these people will develop PTSD.
Many people use the words “trauma” and “PTSD” synonymously. And yet they are not the same thing at all. Trauma refers to any event that overwhelms our ability to cope and leaves us feeling powerless, in a state of terror, or fearing for our safety. The same event may be traumatic to one person and not to another. This will differ from person to person depending on how they view their control over their situation and their coping skills.
To be diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, a person not only has to have experienced a traumatic event – either personally or vicariously – but must also continue to have persistent symptoms which are causing impairment in their life in multiple areas.
These symptoms are grouped into four different clusters and include the following:
Intrusion Symptoms – includes re-experiencing the trauma in one or more ways such as:
- distressing and intense memories
- distressing physical reactions to reminders of the trauma
Avoidance – includes trying to avoid reminders of the trauma in one or more ways such as:
- by avoiding all thoughts and feelings about the event
- by avoiding all external reminders of what happened
Unpleasant Changes in Mood or Thoughts – includes experiencing two or more negative changes in their mood or thinking such as:
- self-blame or blaming others for the experience
- negative feelings about themselves and the world
- difficulty experiencing positive thoughts or emotions
- being disinterested in things that once were interesting for them
- inability to remember the experience clearly
- feeling isolated and alone
Changes in Reactivity– includes experiencing changes in at least two of the following areas:
- increased aggression or irritability
- difficulty sleeping
- difficulty concentrating
- destructive or risky behaviour
- increased startle response
If you have been experiencing these symptoms for one month or more, you are being impacted by trauma. This is undoubtedly affecting some areas of your life and we have therapists specially trained in working with trauma who can help. It is possible to heal from trauma.
Let’s talk about a plan designed to do that for you.
by Heather Baker MSW, RSW
Books We Love
When you are anxious, sad, angry, or lonely, do you hear your self-critical voice? What would happen if, instead of fighting difficult emotions, we accepted them? This wise and eloquent book illuminates the power of self-compassion and offers creative, scientifically grounded strategies for putting it into action.
The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion: Freeing Yourself from Destructive Thoughts and Emotions by Christopher K. Germer, Ph.D.