You may have heard or suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), but COVID-19 has added to the complexity. Now mental health specialists are seeing more people with Complex PTSD (C-PTSD). When trauma or chaotic experiences last for months without respite, you may begin feeling weary, overwhelmed, and burned out. That feeling is intensified if you work in an environment where others are getting sick with the virus, if you had a difficult recovery from the virus, or if you lost a loved one due to the virus. Patients can carry emotional scars from the experience for months, which may extend to years, resulting in PTSD.
Research has shown that physically recovered people may experience lingering emotional effects of the virus due to:
· a fear of dying
· the death of someone close
· anxiety about getting sick.
· social isolation, especially due to being hospitalized or in quarantine
· going through a high-risk pregnancy with COVID-19 precautions
· suffering guilt over infecting or hurting others
Below are some warning signs that you may be suffering from C-PTSD :
· overwhelming sadness, anger, or fear
· having flashbacks or nightmares
· feeling detached from your life and loved ones
Luckily, there are things you can do to help yourself or a loved one who struggles with C-PTSD. Here are a few suggestions:
· Find a therapist whose practice includes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This helps you learn to replace the thoughts that prevent you from moving past the trauma.
· Reach out to a loved one. When you feel anxiety or relive bad memories, talk to a good friend or someone who loves and knows you well. Talking about it will help minimize the effects.
· Take steps to minimize your chance of getting infected. Wear masks, socially distance, and don’t put yourself in a position to be around crowds.
· Cope with your calming techniques. Exercise, pray, meditate, practice yoga, or stretch. Listen to calm music and take walks in nature. Keep a list of what makes you feel calm and practice it every day.
· Stay emotionally connected. Write letters, connect online, call each other, or have safe meet-ups at the park. Try something new like an online book club. Social engagement is necessary for mental health.
Healing from C-PTSD is a process and doesn’t happen overnight but, as with all illnesses, connection is paramount. Your loved ones cannot fix it or make it go away, but they can love you through it. C-PTSD does not define who you are; it just helps explain why you feel the way you do.