Coronavirus | Post-Covid Stress Disorder: All you need to know

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Covid-19’s second wave may have ebbed but Post Covid Stress Disorder has only increased India’s silent pandemic of anxiety and stress burden on public health which stood close to 150 million before the pandemic hit us. Dr Manu Tiwari, Consultant Psychiatrist at Noida’s Fortis hospital shares his views on firstly identifying and then coping with post traumatic stress disorder among different age groups and professions.

What really is PTSD or post-traumatic stress disorder and why should we be cognizant about it?

PTSD is a term which signifies that a person has survived a very life-threatening situation and now he is facing the autonomic activation of limbic system of brain. They may lead to episodes of high intense anxiety, panic attacks and sometimes reliving of the experience.

With so many of us battling loss and stress what are the warning signs of post-traumatic stress disorder?

PTSD per se in a full intensity syndrome is not common, but we face the symptoms of high anxiety and restlessness. Common symptoms can be divided into three zones- (1) Physical symptoms include dizziness, dry mouth, choking sensation, suffocation in breathing, raised heart beats, sweating, feeling of numbness and tingling in hands and legs. (2) Emotional Symptoms involve excessive worrying, recurrent thoughts of bad things happening, irritability or crying episodes. (3)- Cognitive symptoms can be identified through difficulty in completing tasks, concentration span issues. besides, it also reduced sleep, appetite, and libido.

Healthcare workers and essential workers are battling high emotional stress amidst the pandemic. What has been your experience of that and what kind of measures should be taken?

It was an unprecedented times for healthcare professionals, they knew that this is going to be a long war, and it is not still over yet. However, being human- they also faced the same emotional turmoil as any other person. So, at one place they are fighting like soldiers and other, vulnerable like anyone else. This continuous conflict along with the news of unexpected happenings in wards, ICU created a person who is always alert, tensed, and tired of long hours. Afraid to admit this, they continued working and some faced weariness, burn out.

A structured lifestyle is crucial during the current unprecedented situation. It’s important to take each day as it comes with proper nutrition. A hygienic sleep routine as much permissible are important for keeping both mind and body healthy. Maintaining of hobby is a huge de stress exercise. One might not be comfortable in doing Yoga or meditation but engaging in a hobby will provide you a ‘me moment’, which is like Mindfulness. Finally, consulting an expert is a huge advantage because they are trained and skilled professionals to deal with these conditions.

Children and teens are one of the worst affected in current times. With social distancing, isolation and staying away from colleges has Covid increased the risk of depression? What can the parents to do help them?

Children below 13 get more engaged in indoor games, online studies, and other activities. For teens it is always about conflict between freedom and control. So naturally being restrained at home due restrictions is causing lot of frustration and irritability in young persons. But this is how the life is at present. This will build up a very important life lesson in them – being tolerant and humble. It is a difficult period for parents too, which you can covert into an opportunity – develop family mantras, games, strategies. Games are the best means of bonding among each other. Ignore smaller incidents and keep an eye on wholeness of the events. Avoid being judgmental to self and others. We all need a space to rest and grow.

Senior citizens have been locked down in their houses for over a year now. With no social interactions and home isolation how have the elderly coped with the Covid-induced stress and what should be done to keep them stress free?

It is a very difficult time for senior citizens and a very difficult place to be in. They have been forced to be isolated and had a difficult time to manage without helpers. There was also fear of being infected or mortality. With every news coming of a person dying in family or friends ignite a fear impulse of bad events. However, the life skills of elderly are well developed, and they have played a good role in managing crisis situations at RWAs, community level by giving valuable guidance. Mental health of people who were vulnerable because of their genetic predisposition, multifactorial adverse events and other co-morbid conditions have triggered the anxiety, panic, and insomnia symptoms.

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