Community Psychiatry’s Julian Lagoy, M.D. was featured in Healthline discussing the Trauma and how it can relate to COVID-19.
The World Is Experiencing Mass Trauma from COVID-19: What You Can Do
- Enduring emotional distress and fear, such as that created by COVID-19, can cause trauma in children and adults.
- Symptoms of trauma can manifest differently in children than in adults.
- Trauma can carry long-term effects if left untreated, meaning the impact of COVID-19 could remain long after the pandemic is under control.
Understanding the definition of trauma
It’s not at all uncommon for people to downplay the traumatic nature of our current global pandemic. After all, the word “trauma” has historically been associated with violent experiences.
But you don’t have to experience violence to experience trauma.
“Generally, PTSD trauma is defined as being exposed to a traumatic event, such as a sexual assault, war, a car accident, or child abuse,” psychiatrist Dr. Julian Lagoy told Healthline. “However, the current COVID-19 pandemic has qualities that qualify as a traumatic experience as it takes a physical and emotional toll on many people.”
According to Lagoy, one of the key indicators of PTSD trauma is seeing the world as a dangerous place. And the current pandemic has caused that fear in a large portion of the population.
“Some people during this pandemic feel more on guard or unsafe, have an increase in negative thoughts and feelings, and have problems with sleep and concentration — also symptoms of PTSD trauma,” Lagoy said.
How common is this reaction?
Lagoy is quick to point out that because of the ongoing nature of the pandemic, we don’t currently have the data we need to know how many people are experiencing trauma right now.
“We do have data that kids with underlying mental health conditions or history of childhood abuse are more likely to develop PTSD trauma symptoms, which does increase risk for suicide and intentional self-harm,” he said.
The same is true for adults, he explains.
The risks of untreated trauma
Lagoy says trauma isn’t a short-term concern, and that “the long-term consequences are numerous.”
According to Lagoy, some of the risks of unprocessed and untreated trauma can include:
- decreased physical health
- higher risk of suicide or self-harm
- greater risk of substance use
“There have even been studies which have shown physical changes in the brain (increased amygdala size) of people suffering from PTSD and untreated trauma,” Lagoy said.
Indeed, trauma has been found to have a lasting impact on those who experience it — which is why it’s so important to acknowledge and address those experiences.
How to recognize signs of trauma
The first step to addressing trauma and getting help for those who need it is to acknowledge the existence of that trauma.
Lagoy says adults need to pay attention to their own symptoms as well. He explains that some concerning signs of trauma among adults might include “an increase in disturbing thoughts, feelings, or nightmares related to the pandemic, such as dreams about forgetting to wear a mask.”
How to treat symptoms of trauma and seek help
“The best treatment for untreated trauma is psychotherapy and counseling,” Lagoy said. “Medications are also valuable, but I would prefer psychotherapy and counseling first, especially for children.”
How to prevent future trauma during the pandemic
Lagoy says it’s important to view the current pandemic through the lens of trauma.
“We need to be educated about the symptoms of trauma and to treat it as soon as possible so it does not lead to worse consequences,” he explained.
He adds that we may see the indications of trauma on the mental health of the general population on a global scale 5 to 10 years from now.
Click here to read the entire article on Healthline.