Is your COVID anxiety really PTSD

You hear the term thrown around a lot, perhaps too often. “I’m gonna have serious PTSD after COVID.”Granted, many will have suffered through genuine trauma during an unforeseen pandemic that has claimed more than 547,000 lives in the U. S. — those who fell seriously ill, lost loved ones to the virus or witnessed daily tragedies while working in the healthcare field. But the conflicted feelings we might have related to resuming “normal life” as more people get vaccinated are likely not due to actual post-traumatic stress disorder. David MacVicar, a clinical psychologist at the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center, said we’re seeing a gradual, incremental return to pre-pandemic activities, a natural way that people ease back into things after they’ve been exposed to something that makes them uncertain and cautious. We spoke to MacVicar about whether what we’re feeling is actually post-traumatic stress or something different, the reluctance to return to pre-pandemic activities and how people can find help if they experience this COVID-related anxiety. Without question there are individuals who have experienced directly tragic events related to this pandemic. They’ve lost loved ones before their eyes. They’ve worked in healthcare settings treating people suffering from severe COVID, passing away from severe COVID. Those kinds of events are what we consider the kinds of trauma that can result in post-traumatic stress disorder for the people that are experiencing those things directly. In general, for folks who have not experienced those kinds of direct traumas, what we’re all wrestling with as a society and culture is really more of a phenomenon of risk appraisal and trying to get an idea of our relative safety in resuming our pre-pandemic normal social activities. If a human being perceives something as potentially dangerous or risky, you’re going to feel anxious as you approach whatever that thing is. If you are approaching the edge of a cliff, for example, as you get to the edge of that cliff, you’re naturally going to feel some anxiety because we all have this internal risk appraisal process that happens. When we approach things that are dangerous, we naturally feel repelled, we want to escape or avoid or distance ourselves from whatever it is that’s dangerous. We all kind of do this in our day-to-day life. When we are making a risk assessment, that is absolutely going to be affected by our individual perception of what it is that we’re thinking about or looking at, right? And so if you’re very comfortable with snakes and I’m not very comfortable with snakes, and we’re in the woods and I see a snake, I might feel really anxious and sort of startle and jump back, and you may not feel anxious at all and you may look for some way to pick up the snake.

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