Experts: Recent surge could trigger COVID-related PTSD

COVID survivors continue to struggle with PTSD
COVID-19 ventilator hospital
Posted at 11:06 PM, Jan 05, 2022

CINCINNATI — A rise in COVID-19 cases can take a mental toll on those who survived the virus. Experts say post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can happen after a life-threatening experience. For some, the battle with the virus continues after their hospitalization.

It's been nearly two years since Drew Abbot was hospitalized at Good Samaritan with COVID.

"I think I was their first COVID patient that tested positive,” Abbot said. “I was like the sixth in Hamilton County, so we were way early in the curve.”

Though he recovered, Abbot's emotional wounds remained.

"I would kind of break out in a cold sweat every time I drove by the emergency room where I got wheeled in,” Abbot said. “The sound of the door locking in the hospital room, I would wake up to in the middle of the night, kind of having dreams of it for a while.”

Abbot started a support group after his release for other survivors. The group ended last spring as the vaccine became available and cases started to decline, but with the new surge in cases, Abbot said he understands how COVID is still affecting some.

"That level of fear and panic in some people just was instilled,” Abbot said. “ They still struggle with that. They have not come out of the shell even now.”

As the world experiences something to the beginning stages of the pandemic, experts say it can trigger PTSD.

"One of the symptoms for PTSD is avoidance,” said Dr. Maria Espinola, a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Cincinnati.

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Espinola recommends those who are suffering from PTSD take care of themselves. She said exercising, eating well, getting therapy and connecting with others could help.

“At the very least, make a phone call,” Espinola said. “Have a Zoom meeting, connect through social media, but don't isolate.”

Abbot said if the need arises, his support group could restart, agreeing that being connected makes all the difference.

“Society, we need to acknowledge that we are under that kind of stress — that we're kind of freaking out again," Abbot said. "I think it comes back to the community, being able to connect with people that you care about and that you can support each other.”

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers resources for those with COVID-inspired PTSD. You can reach the crisis line by texting 741741.

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