Updated: Apr 21, 2020
The psychological distress created by traumatic experiences such as the global pandemic we currently face will create a "new normal" for many people. Not only will this create chances in the ways of managing physical health and safety, but for many this has either introduced or exacerbated mental health issues.
At some point, this too shall pass. The COVID curve will flatten and then dissipate… to an extent, at least, but we have no idea when that will be. Following a crisis such as this, there will be many people who are left with relational or complex trauma. The “new normal” for many people adjusting to life post-COVID-19 might include an increase of paranoia, anxiety or fear.
(Scroll down to see a list of Signs of Psychological Distress)
Hysteria, or what we now know as a trauma response, was initially thought to be a distinctly biological illness. In the early 1900’s however, Sigmund Freud and other minds of the time concluded that hysteria and the possible dissociative or psychotic states that followed actually have psychological roots. Experiencing trauma causes the brain to create defense mechanisms, put in place by our minds to protect us against the threat of potential harm, whether physical or psychological. During and following a global pandemic such as this, we know that our mind’s may in an effort to protect us create a mental state that appears dysfunctional but is really our psyche trying to protect us from further harm.
Experiencing trauma causes the brain to create defense mechanisms, put in place by our minds to protect us against the threat of potential harm, whether physical or psychological.
This could be true of any crisis or trauma whether individually experienced or witnessed. Our brains are constantly rewiring, taking in new information such as uncertainty of the future or the intense shock and despair of losing a loved one and further developing the narrative that we already have in our subconscious about our lives, our family or our future. For this reason, you may recognize psychological signs of terror or distress in the people around you throughout and following this global trauma.
Signs of psychological distress include:
Emotional distress including depressed mood, sadness, or feeling overwhelmed, unmotivated or hopeless
Anxiety, constant worry, fear, or feeling helpless or numb
Racing thoughts or cognitive distortions (irrational thoughts)
Anger, irritability or hostility
Restlessness, insomnia, oversleeping, fatigue or low energy
Problems with memory or difficulty concentrating
Impulsiveness or impaired judgment
Disturbed appetite including overeating or loss of appetite
Poor grooming and hygiene or loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
Interpersonal problems, relationship conflict or social withdrawal
Thoughts of causing harm to yourself or others
It is important to be aware of psychological signs of stress and trauma so that we can identify issues as soon as they occur and address them with the appropriate mental health support or treatment.
Stay healthy and be kind to your mind!
Jenna Vogler MA, LMHC