PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — A new study from Italy shows 30% of COVID-19 survivors experience post-traumatic stress disorder.
PTSD is an anxiety condition characterized by intrusive memories of a traumatic event. The individual can also experience nightmares and flashbacks, startle easily, avoid certain things associated with the event, and experience feelings of guilt and depression.
Dr. Ted Bender, president of UnityPoint Health, said COVID-19 has contributed to a significant uptick in mental health problems. He estimated 35% of people that spend a long time in the Intensive Care Unit experience symptoms of PTSD.
“It’s kind of like throwing gasoline on a campfire so you have people who have some symptoms of mental health disorders, but they may not be at the diagnosable level,” he said.
Bender said the pandemic will tip many people over into the diagnosable category. He said substance use disorders and suicides are also on the rise. Major contributing factors include social isolation and economic downturn.
The prevalence of PTSD among adults is 6% of men and 10% of women. The good news, Bender said, is that PTSD responds well to treatment, especially through cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure-based methods.
The first step is just asking for help.