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Study establishes link between PTSD and pandemic panic

Scientists have established a link between PTSD and pandemic panic. Published in PLOS ONE is the study that explores people’s response to the stresses of the escalating pandemic, finding more than 13% of the sample had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) related symptoms consistent with levels necessary to qualify for a clinical diagnosis.

According to the researchers, more needs to be done to cope with the potential short and long-term spike in PTSD cases resulting from the pandemic Рas well as related mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, psychosocial functioning, etc. This is specifically true with the ongoing economic and social fallout.

PTSD is a set of reactions, including intrusive recollections such as flashbacks, that can develop in people exposed to an event that threatened their life or safety (e.g., sexual assault, natural disaster).

“While the global pandemic does not fit into prevailing PTSD models, or diagnostic criteria, our research shows this ongoing global stressor can trigger traumatic stress symptoms,” says lead researcher Associate Professor Melanie Takarangi, from Flinders Psychology.

“We found that traumatic stress was related to future events, such as worry about oneself or a family member contracting COVID-19, to direct contact with the virus, as well as indirect contact such as via the news and government lockdown – a non-life threatening event,” says co-author Victoria Bridgland, who is undertaking a PhD studying the triggers of PTSD.

“Our findings highlight the need to focus on the acute psychological distress – including the perceived emotional impact of particular events – associated with COVID-19 and build on other research from the past year that demonstrates the damaging psychological impact of COVID-19 on mental health,” says Ms Bridgland.

Comprehensive long-term documentation of COVID-19 related traumatic stress reactions will allow health professionals to help people who could otherwise fall through the cracks, the research team concludes.

The online survey examined a range of responses to common post-traumatic stress symptoms, such as repeated disturbing and unwanted images, memories or thoughts about the COVIC-19 pandemic.

COVID-19’s psychological fallout has been dubbed the “second curve,” predicted to last for months to years, the paper notes.

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