Psychological Reactions to COVID-19


It would be an understatement to say that 2020 has been a rollercoaster of unpredictable events –– beloved celebrities passing away unexpectedly, riots and protests becoming increasingly violent, and the president’s questionable decisions impacting the United States. However, the most unpredictable of all that has affected people all over the world – mentally, physically, emotionally, and socioeconomically – is COVID-19. The pandemic has changed the way we live and function in which schooling and jobs were moved to virtual settings and potential milestones such as weddings, birthdays, and other gatherings, were missed.

Through scientific research and evidence, symptoms of the coronavirus have been confirmed to include the following: shortness of breath, fever or chills, fatigue, a painful chest, and congestion. Some individuals are asymptomatic, meaning they wouldn’t show symptoms even if they contracted the virus.  Furthermore, though some victims are fortunate enough to recover from the virus, the effects of COVID-19 are usually long term. In fact, the COVID-19 aftermath can potentially affect your mood, cause fatigue, and instigate organ damage to the heart, lungs, and brain, as well as blood clot issues.

 According to a study from the American Psychological Association, “Although large numbers of people throughout the world will show resilience to the profound loss, stress, and fear associated with COVID-19, the virus will likely exacerbate existing mental health disorders and contribute to the onset of new stress-related disorders for many” (Brown & Horesh, 2020).

The coronavirus has proven to be a traumatic experience for some individuals in different ways. It is possible to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) due to the experience of COVID-19. The DSM-5 defined Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as “the development of char­acteristic symptoms following exposure to one or more traumatic events” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).

Psychiatric Times says that “The coronavirus has already led to diverse mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, PTSD, and other trauma and stress-related disorders” (Czapla & Tucker, 2020). Different groups have been traumatized by the events of the coronavirus. This includes people who have experienced COVID-19 and potential near death experiences, or individuals who had to witness a loved one go through COVID-19 due to the virus. Front line care responders such as healthcare workers and medical examiners may have been exposed to multiple patients suffering and dying from the coronavirus, which can be traumatizing as well. 

Furthermore, upon adding more stress to individuals, the coronavirus has also been emotionally traumatizing. Being socially isolated, experiencing economic hardship and unemployment, or working from home while caring for your children may all seem foreign and overwhelming. 

The comorbidity of having COVID-19 and PTSD at the same time isn’t common, but it does occur in patients. According to health officials, one of the ways to address COVID-19 if you have contracted the virus is to stay at home and recover, isolating yourself from family and friends so that you do not spread the virus to anyone else, avoid public areas at all costs, keep in touch with your doctor, and taking over the counter medicines such as acetaminophen to help you feel better.

References

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Publisher

CDC. What to Do If You Are Sick. (2020). Retrieved November 16, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html

Horesh, D., & Brown, A. D. (2020). Traumatic Stress in the Age of COVID-19: A Call to Close Critical Gaps and Adapt to New Realities. Retrieved from https://psycnet.apa.org/fulltext/2020-25108-001.html

Tucker, P., & Czapla, C. (2020). Post-COVID Stress Disorder: Another Emerging Consequence of the Global Pandemic. Retrieved November 16, 2020, from https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/post-covid-stress-disorder-emerging-consequence-global-pandemic

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