My Patients with Anxiety and PTSD are Handling Covid-19 Better than Most

Over the last few weeks I have noticed that some of the worst worriers in my practice and many people with an emotional trauma history are actually becoming more focused on what they reasonably can and need to do during this pandemic and not spending much time thinking about seemingly far off what-if scenarios involving countless undefined other threats to our existence.

This reminds me of how I lost my fear of walking through the woods after dark going from my grandparents farm to our camp when I was a near-adolescent. One time I had a much younger and very frightened cousin with me and from that time on, I have felt no fear or anxiety myself on that walk.

Seeing the fear outside myself, I first somehow didn’t feel like I was alone with it and then, the more I saw it in my cousin, the less I felt it myself. I felt myself grew into the adult, protective role that was required of me to take on during that late evening walk.

Adrenaline flowing through our bodies can make us have a panic attack, but it can also give us the strength to lift a heavy object impinging a loved one or the courage to scare off a bear or mountain lion. Adrenaline needs a purpose, or it will paralyze us.

I wonder if other clinicians also have seen patients with a history of anxiety actually handling their condition better during this pandemic.

4 Responses to “My Patients with Anxiety and PTSD are Handling Covid-19 Better than Most”

  1. 1 David Lee Masters April 13, 2020 at 5:40 am

    Hmm. Interesting hypothesis! I do seem to have had less calls from frantic parents reporting suicidal thinking and panic attacks. I have had only one patient who has been doing worse with her anxiety but she works in a grocery store and is worried about being infected. Not an unreasonable worry.

  2. 2 David M. Harlan LCSW April 13, 2020 at 8:05 am

    I have long observed that PTSD individuals react differently to stressors and we have seen many with obsessive behavior -as it relates to thrill seeking. I recall some research indicating that, once trauma occurs in the brain, adrenaline is processed differently and instead of exciting, it actually has a soothing or calming affect. All of this certainly seems to be the case now as I have seen dozens of my PTSD patients reacting to the pandemic in a more calm and organized way that I sometimes feel myself.

  3. 3 Lisa April 13, 2020 at 8:43 am

    I never really thought my doctors really understood my anxiety attacks when I’d try to tell them about it. It goes something like this. I’m sitting at lunch with my tablet and my knitting bag. Suddenly, I feel overwhelmed at the prospect of having to carry everything to the tray drop off. On one hand, my mind is panicked with the idea and I get the physical response of fight or flight. On the other hand is a calm voice somewhere within telling myself that it’s okay if I have to make more than one trip to manage everything. But still my body is in panic mode and my mind is racing, totally overwhelmed.

    So yeah, I’m in my own environment. I have control over the things that my mind will focus on. I can turn off the TV and computer. I don’t have to listen to the news. I have no one demanding that I be somewhere at a certain time. There are no expectations on me. I’m used to listening to that voice that tells me that it’s all going to be okay. I can turn on music and lie on the floor and breath in and out. I’m used to distracting myself from the panic. I think I am doing better than people who have never had to deal with this.

  4. 4 Virginia Smith July 26, 2020 at 8:29 pm

    When the quarantining began on March 19 I almost had a “melt down”. I admit to a couple of crying spells, but never had to call my doctor. I am fortunate to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and benefit from His worldwide organization. The governing body immediately arranged for our meetings to be held via Zoom, and in some places in Africa, for example, the meetings were broadcast by radio or television. Our door to door and public ministry was halted and we began sharing encouraging thoughts from the Bible with our neighbors through letters and telephone calls. Many of us have health issues, but we strengthen each other and pray to our loving heavenly Father, Jehovah. We look forward to the fulfillment of Isaiah 33:24 which says, “No resident will say ‘I am sick’.”

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