Watchet, Somerset, UK, 9th April 2020 22:57

Our local chippy reopened today with strict hygiene and social distancing measures. It was really nice to go there with my protective gloves and my own bag and order three cod, one large portion of chips, two fishcakes and a sausage. I brought these items home and sat down to have dinner with my family. It was lovely, it almost felt normal, nostalgically normal.

There are some hopeful signals coming form news and governments that social distancing measures are starting to have an effect on the spread of infection and on deaths. It is still quite a long way to go but this gives me hope that we will, at some point, be able to return to life. But it won’t be life as we know it, Jim.

What will life look like after COVID-19? Will we go back to gather in large groups? How will we greet each other? Will we kiss and shake hands? Will there be music festivals and sporting events? Will children go back to playing the way the did before? Will they get dirty and roll around on the floor with each other? Or will they pick up on this social distancing lark and reduce contact unconsciously?

There are many things which will be affected by this crisis and we probably haven’t realised the majority of them yet. I want to focus on one definite consequence of this situation: post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD for short.

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that develops after a person has been exposed to a highly stressful, often terrifying, event or series of events.

These events tend to involve harm or the threat of physical harm. PTSD usually affects the individual who has been directly harmed or threatened.

Sometimes a person develops PTSD as a result of witnessing a harmful event that happened to someone else. Some relatives and friends develop PTSD as a result of a loved one being involved in a traumatic event.

For most people, the symptoms of PTSD emerge shortly after the traumatic experience (within the first days or weeks). However, for some, their symptoms only emerge several months or even years later.

The immediate cause of PTSD is experiencing a traumatic event or series of events. These ‘events’ can include:

Being a victim of or seeing violence.

Serious illness or near death for the person or the death or serious illness of a loved one.

War-related experiences and combat. Serious accidents, such as a car accident, plane or train crash or an accident at work.

Natural or man-made disasters such as floods, hurricanes, earthquakes and fires.

Violent crimes, like a robbery, mugging or sexual assault.


Abuse or neglect.

Forced confinement or imprisonment.

It its estimated that around 25-30% of people experiencing a traumatic event may go on to develop PTSD.

I think it is safe to say that the current crisis has been very traumatic for most people. All of us meet some of the above criteria. And for some who are or will be affected directly by the illness and even the death of a close person, it might be an even bigger trauma.

One thing that the human mind does when under severe stress is to switch off the emotional response to the situation. A classic example of this is a soldier in a combat situation. They have to constantly defend themselves from attack so they are running high on adrenaline and therefore not processing the emotional experience. It is often the case that veterans only start feeling the impact once they return home to safety. At home where they feel secure, they start experiencing some of the symptoms of PTSD.

The symptoms of PTSD can be the following:

Hyper-vigilance: This is also known as ‘hyper-arousal’ and it refers to a constant feeling of being ‘on edge’ or ‘on guard’. As a result of the trauma they have experienced, people with PTSD often say that they feel like danger is never far away and that they need to remain alert at all times in case the traumatic event ever happens again. Consequently, many find it very difficult to relax and their heightened sense of arousal means they are likely to be irritable, anxious and easily startled.

Emotional blunting: Emotional blunting means that the person is unable to feel the same range of emotions and feelings of pleasure that they once did.  People often comment that they feel detached from the world around them and emotionally ‘numb’. As a result, many find it difficult to interact and ‘open up’ top others.

Some people with PTSD also feel tremendous guilt. They may believe that they could have done more to stop the event or to help others. Some people say they feel griefstrickenMany talk about a never-ending feeling of ‘loss’, especially if people died in the event. Some people with PTSD feel a great deal of shame.

Flashbacks: Most people with PTSD repeatedly relive the trauma, in their thoughts during the day and in nightmares when they sleep. These are called flashbacks.

Flashbacks may consist of images, sounds, smells or feelings, and are often triggered by ordinary occurrences, such as a door slamming or a car backfiring on the street. A person having a flashback may lose touch with reality and believe that the traumatic incident is happening all over again. Flashbacks can leave the person feeling terrified and emotionally exhausted. They can prevent the person from relaxing or being able to sleep through the night.

Avoidance behaviours: There are a number of ways in which avoidance behaviours can affect the person. In order to block out the disturbing thoughts and painful memories, some people ‘keep busy’ by throwing themselves into activities or work. This is a distraction technique that helps them to cope. It is also often a way of avoiding talking about the event and how it has affected them. To others the person may appear distant and uninterested in their loved ones.

People often become angry, aggressive and often violent. This is because they feel out of control and anger can provide a an illusion of control.

Other avoidance behaviours can be: social isolation and withdrawal, drinking alcohol or taking drugs, behavioural addictions such as gambling, pornography, shopping, etc. Any behaviour which a person can use to avoid feeling the trauma can have the effect of perpetuating it.

One thing that I have noticed lately is the amount of bad news that are being fed to us day by day. Things that one day seem huge become insignificant after we hear the next set of events. But it is going in somewhere, it doesn’t just disappear. But because we have to “keep calm and carry on”, I fear that we are storing it all up for it to emerge when we finally “go back home”.

I think that we need to be aware of the impact that all of this is having on us and we have to be prepared for a rise in mental health problems on the other side of this.

I don’t have a solution for this current situation but I can think of a few things that we can do right now to lessen the impact:

Ration your news intake. Do you really need to check the news all the time? They say that the higher the amount of Coronavirus in your system, the more likely you are to become seriously ill. So reduce the amount of Coronavirus news and it will help your mental immunity. Oh yes, and limit social media use (I will post on this topic another day).

Talk about how you feel, not about the news. Find an understanding, non-judgemental and empathetic person you can talk to. Use Zoom or phone someone who understands you. Reach out for loved ones and share your experiences with them.

Listen to others. Tune into other people’s lives. Human connection has been proven to lessen anxiety and depression.

Be kind to yourself. Don’t judge yourself for feeling scared or sad. It is normal to have a strong emotional reaction to this pandemic. When we feel scared we often regress and feel child-like and vulnerable. Nurture your vulnerability like you you would do to that of a child.

If you find the whole thing too much, seek professional help. It can be very useful to talk to a counsellor or another mental health professional. Talking to someone who is not in your everyday life can feel very liberating as you can say what is on your heart and mind, but without the consequences that talking to a loved one would have.

These are just some of the things that you can do to look after yourself. We cannot change a global pandemic singlehandedly but we can do a lot to protect ourselves from the personal effect it can have on us.

Good night all

Tonight’s choice of music is by Hardfloor: Fish and Chips

World-wide confirmed cases: 1,587,209

World-wide deaths: 94,850

World-wide recovered: 353,291

UK confirmed cases: 65,863

UK deaths: 7,992

UK recovered: 357


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