Stresses of COVID-19 May Affect PTSD Victims Adversely

Edited by Admin
Stresses of COVID-19 May Affect PTSD Victims Adversely

COVID-19 May Affect PTSD Victims

Do you have PTSD as a result of a motor vehicle accident?


A recent article in the British medical journal the Lancet discusses some of the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on people who suffer from mental health challenges such as PTSD. It’s estimated that approximately one in ten people involved in serious car accidents will develop some degree of PTSD. These accident victims may be at risk during the ongoing pandemic due to a number of different factors.


Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a psychiatric disorder that sometimes develops in people who have undergone traumatic events. Symptoms may include:

  • High levels of anxiety when thinking about the event.
  • Recurring nightmares.
  • “Flashbacks,” or feeling as if the event were happening again.
  • Having a physical reaction when reminded of the event (ie, sweating, elevated heart rate.)
  • Experiencing trouble with sleeping.
  • Feeling as though danger is everywhere.
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed.
  • Anger issues or irritability.
  • Loss of positive feelings.
  • Going to lengths to avoid talking about or thinking about the traumatic event.

If you or a family member has PTSD following a motor vehicle accident, therapy will likely be recommended. A therapist might use cognitive-behavioural therapy, which has been found to be very effective for PTSD. Another common treatment is SSRI medication such as Zoloft or Paxil. Your therapist may recommend one or the other, or both in combination. Treatment can help patients with PTSD feel more in control of their emotions and can lead to a reduction in symptoms. The good news is that, although one-tenth of the victims of serious accidents develops PTSD, most recover within one year, and, of those who were still symptomatic after one year, more than half had recovered by the three-year mark.

Difficult Circumstances

Unfortunately, since the declaration of the worldwide pandemic in March of 2020, approximately half of Canadians have reported worsening mental health. Canada was already experiencing a crisis in mental health care, and with increased demand, mental health services have become even more difficult to access in the province. In addition, various factors are affecting mental health, including loneliness or stress on relationships due to lockdown and quarantine, anxiety about catching COVID-19 or our uncertain future, and grief caused by COVID-19 deaths. All of these things can cause mental illness or make existing mental health issues more severe. Another effect of COVID-19 has been the financial impact, as people have lost work and income, making it harder to afford therapy and medication. For people with PTSD, these difficult circumstances could become a perfect storm. Left untreated, many engage in risky behaviours such as substance abuse or gambling in an effort to self-medicate.


Coping with PTSD in the Time of COVID-19

It’s important to maintain treatment for PTSD during this stressful time. First, work with a therapist; if you don’t already have a therapist or counsellor, your family doctor can usually refer you to one. If you have difficulty getting an appointment, or finding a therapist who is covered by OHIP or your insurance, keep trying! The Canadian Mental Health Association has some suggestions about how to find a therapist or counsellor. If you need immediate help, look for a support group. Sometimes talking with people who share your experiences can be a way to connect with and learn from others. Your doctor or a community health organization may be able to recommend a support group. Depending on your circumstances, there may be community supports available to you; you can find out more about services in your area by calling CMHA.


Take your medication. If you are having trouble affording it, tell your doctor. There are programs that can subsidize drug purchases (such as the Trillium Drug Program,) and sometimes doctors receive free samples from pharmaceutical companies that they can give you in an emergency. Other times there your doctor may know of a less expensive drug that can be substituted as an alternative.

And of course, try to maintain your physical health. Keep a regular schedule, with good sleep hygiene. Eat well-balanced meals at mealtimes and stay hydrated. Shower or bathe and brush your teeth every day. If you live alone, have regular video or phone contact with friends and family. Reach out for help if you are struggling.


Practice self-care techniques that can help to keep you focused and calm.


Do things you like to do, such as listening to music or reading. Go for walks and spend time outdoors whenever possible; limit screen time. One technique that has been shown to help people with PTSD is meditation. Meditation is cost-free and can be done anytime or anywhere. Just a few minutes a day can help, and there are many online resources that can help you get started.


COVID-19 threw some unexpected obstacles in our way in 2020. Prioritizing your mental health can help to ensure you will get through the pandemic stronger than ever.