Were you hospitalised with a COVID-19 or suffered severe symptoms? You may have COVID PTSD.
Have you woken up feeling exhausted despite an average amount of sleep? Are you having vivid nightmares? Do you find yourself feeling angry, depressed, or anxious more often than usual? Are you feeling isolated and withdrawn? If you answered yes, you might be suffering from the less-talked-about, long-lasting impact of your COVID-19 PTSD.
I’ve been noticing increasing clients who had COVID appearing in my office with all the PTSD symptoms of having suffered a life threatening trauma. I have been treating them with EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitation and Reprocessing) Therapy and seeng the symptoms markedly diminished. A quick look at recent research shows:
Rates of PTSD Symptoms in Hospitalized COVID-19 Patients
A study (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Patients After Severe COVID-19 Infection) published in 2021 observed COVID-19 patients 30-120 days after their recovery . Out of the 381 study participants, 309 had been hospitalised. Here are the diagnostic rates the researchers found within the experimental group:
- PTSD: 30.2%
- Depression: 17.3%
- Generalised Anxiety Disorder: 7%
- Hypomanic Episode: 0.7%
Women experienced PTSD symptoms the most. These findings led the researchers to determine that factors associated with COVID PTSD are gender, delirium, agitation, and persistent medical symptoms (Janiri, D. et al.).
Another study (Mental health outcomes after hospitalisation with or without COVID-19) observing COVID-19 patients found 25% tested positive in PTSD screeners compared to 7% of patients experiencing similar physical symptoms without a COVID-19 diagnosis. Researchers at Michigan University Health Lab also found that COVID-19 hospitalisation and feelings of social isolation led to an increased risk of developing PTSD, what is worse is that no-one is recognising it as PTSD and treating for it. (Imhoff, 2021).
How Do I Know If I’m Experiencing COVID PTSD?
If you’re concerned about yourself or your loved one, look out for the following symptoms of PTSD listed in the DSM-5 (APA, 2013):
- Difficulty falling and staying asleep
- Difficulties concentrating; brain fog, short-term memory challenges
- Diminished interest in pleasurable or daily activities
- Easily changed mood
- Inability to relax and feel calm
- Reduced socialisation
- Flashbacks to traumatic moments while hospitalised
- Avoidance of external reminders (people talking about COVID)
Seeking treatment as soon as possible is vital to a full recovery. While it may feel scary to seek help, know that nonjudgmental care is available and that you do not have to suffer alone.
COVID PTSD Treatment
As a clinical psychologist and accredited practitioner, I use Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) treatment to support patients healing from COVID PTSD. EMDR helps treat COVID PTSD by lessening the stressor’s impact, decreasing intrusive thoughts, reducing emotional reactivity, and more (Lazzaroni et al., 2021). I can guide you through emotional recovery through my empathetic, nonjudgmental approach. Contact me today to learn more about EMDR and see if we are a good fit.
Sources COVID-19 PTSD:
- Burgos, C. (2021). Why PTSD May Plague Many Hospitalised COVID-19 Survivors. Smithsonian Magazine. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-ptsd-may-plague-many-covid-19-survivors-180976715/
- Janiri D, Carfì A, Kotzalidis GD, et al. (2021). Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Patients After Severe COVID-19 Infection. JAMA Psychiatry;78(5): 567–569. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2021.0109
- Spencer-Segal, J.L. (2021). Mental health outcomes after hospitalisation with or without COVID-19. General Hospital Psychiatry; Vol 72 p. 152-153.
- Imhoff, J. (2021). Risk of PTSD, anxiety, loneliness after COVID-19 hospitalisation. Michigan University Health Lab. https://labblog.uofmhealth.org/lab-report/risk-of-ptsd-anxiety-loneliness-after-covid-19-hospitalization
- Kaseda, E.T. & Levine, A.J. (2020) Post-traumatic stress disorder: A differential diagnostic consideration for COVID-19 survivors. The Clinical Neuropsychologist; 34(7-8): 1498-1514.
- Lazzaroni, E., et al. (2021). Coronavirus Disease 2019 Emergency and Remote Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Group Therapy with Adolescents and Young Adults: Overcoming lockdown with the butterfly hug. Frontiers in Psychology.