COVID-19 and Collective Trauma

Symbol for a post-covid life. Man turns cubes and changes words 'covid life' to 'post-covid life'.

Some of the lasting symptoms of COVID-19 can be defined as collective trauma. In fact this form of PTSD will leave lasting effects to many Americans and others in the world. As we have conversations with one another we recognize that we are just not the same as we were two years ago. Many of these deficits are due to this collective trauma phenomenon.

This syndrome is described in an article by Hope Reese in a recent article on the Discover Magazine website. It is something that we should be aware of as we assess our own emotional and relational health post-COVID-19.  Here are some excerpts from this article:

There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has triggered new levels of stress. Thanks to work-from-home mandates, school schedule disruptions, and the seemingly endless discovery of new variants, most of us have been forced to adapt to a way of life in which nothing is certain. And that’s aside from the casualties — as of this writing, just shy of 940,000 in the U.S. — and the trauma endured by their loved ones.

Nadine Burke Harris, California’s surgeon general during the pandemic, recently called it “probably the greatest collective trauma of our generation.” But what will be the aftermath of this trauma? While it’s virtually impossible to know how the pandemic might affect us in the future — the research on how this long-term stress is currently affecting us is just underway — we can turn to the experts for clues of what’s to come……

There are also troubling statistics on the rise of domestic violence during the pandemic: Women with the greatest financial anxiety were the most likely to report domestic abuse, and this abuse sometimes led to deaths. According to Ohio domestic violence shelters, the state has seen a 62 percent increase in domestic violence fatalities since 2020.

NEW NORMAL words on protective face masks on yellow and red background. Post covid-19 pandemic changes, new reality, wearing face mask in public concept.

On top of all these consequences, the levels of fear of infection (or of the vaccine itself) have soared. Those with preexisting anxiety, as well as those concerned about the wellbeing of vulnerable friends and family, were at particularly high risk for pandemic-related fears, according to new research in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders.

Bessel van der Kolk, psychiatrist and author of the bestselling book The Body Keeps the Score, stresses that trauma isn’t a thing of the past; it’s a living experience we grapple with in daily life. Therefore, the “collective trauma” brought about by the pandemic is likely to have a long-lasting impact.

The article continues to quote Dr. van der Kolk as he provides information about this collective trauma and suggestions on how to heal. Here is the link to the rest of the article.

Gerry Vassar


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