PPSD isn’t yet a formal diagnosis (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Owen O’Kane a psychotherapist and the former NHS clinical lead for mental health, has coined a new term – Post Pandemic Stress Disorder (PPSD) – which he says could be a serious problem over the next few years.
Most people have heard of PTSD – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – which can occur after someone has experienced a traumatic event in life.
PPSD is directly linked to the traumatic impact of the pandemic. Although it is not yet a formal diagnosis, Owen’s concern is that many people will have experienced varying degrees of trauma over the past year: loss, isolation, illness, unable to say goodbye to loved ones, business failures and daily horrific news headlines.
‘The issue is that the invisible nature of a pandemic may see trauma minimised, whereas an event like a war would normalise trauma,’ Owen tells Metro.co.uk.
‘I suspect we will see an increase of symptoms relating to anxiety and mood after lockdown restrictions ease. I believe many of these symptoms will be related directly to underlying trauma and if this isn’t recognised now, then we will be inadequately prepared.’
Owen – who’s the author of Ten Times Happier – explains that there are two types of traumas; ‘large T’ traumas which manifest in PTSD, and ‘little t’ traumas which result in symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.
He says countless numbers of adults and children have suffered a culmination of ‘little t’ traumas this year, all within a general atmosphere of uncertainty. Therefore, an explosion of people experiencing these mental health problems is both understandable and worrying.
‘As these events are unrelenting and the traumas currently remain untreated, without the appropriate framework in either official or unofficial capacities, they are only likely to worsen,’ says Owen.
Owen’s goal is to ensure treatments which occur post-pandemic for those suffering from anxiety or depression are cognisant of their traumas, so they can be addressed.
‘Without this consideration,’ he says, ‘the majority of people will remain mentally unwell because the trauma will not have been unpacked.
‘Ultimately, without PPSD being recognised and respected by those in positions of authority, the trauma people have experience will not be processed. This is likely to have a detrimental impact on the health of a society which is already under a massive amount of strain.’
He adds that PPSD will have serious and far-reaching effects.
‘The pandemic has undoubtedly had a severe impact on every single one of us, and I am not alone in the belief there will be a post-pandemic mental health crisis,’ he adds.
‘Therefore, it is not inconceivable or dramatic to want a new diagnosis which pays respect to the challenges we have faced over the past year and I hope we can create an appropriate framework which will help people to move on and lead happy and healthier lives.’
How do you know if you might have PPSD?
If you notice either new or worsening symptoms in the following areas since the pandemic, then it is possible some degree of trauma may be present:
- Increased levels of anxiety
- Variations in mood
- Sleep issues
- Avoiding situations that remind you of pandemic/lockdowns
- Feeling on guard on constantly vigilant about future pandemics or recurrences of Covid-19
- Intrusive type thoughts about your pandemic experiences
If you are at all worried about your mental health, or if you’re experiencing the above symptoms, talk to your GP or a mental health specialist.
There are a number of mental illnesses that can cause these kinds of symptoms.
How to protect your mental health after the pandemic
Here are Owen’s five tops tips for mental wellbeing post-pandemic:
- Recognise that you have just come through a very challenging period and accept that you may feel a little destabilised for a period. Talking this through with someone you trust will help you begin to process the events of the last year. Always seek professional support if you are struggling to cope or symptoms feel overwhelming. Trauma responses often need professional support, and this is crucially important to recognise.
- Plan ahead how you will readjust to normal life and opt for a pace that is comfortable for you. Adapt a phased approach and don’t attempt to submerge yourself too quickly.
- Create a daily self-care schedule to help you reset. This might include designated time out periods, walks, exercise, meditation or anything that helps you switch off. This will help you feel a greater sense of control and allow the mind time to heal.
- Remember times when you have coped and survived after dark periods in life. You can do it again.
- Reclaim your life by gradually reengaging with activities, people or events that excite and motivate you. Looking ahead with a degree of hope is an important part of recovery after any traumatic time.
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