Authors: Agata Benfante, Marialaura Di Tella, Annunziata Romeo, and Lorys Castelli
[This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.569935/full.]
The COVID-19 pandemic is classifiable as a traumatic event of exceptional magnitude that transcends the range of normal human experience with exposure to risk of death. Meta-analyses have found a high prevalence of anxious and depressive symptoms among healthcare workers, especially among women and nurses. People exposed to trauma can experiment with positive responses, reconsidering their values and appreciating their lives more.
Exploring COVID Stress
The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 as a pandemic on March 11, 2020, when infections and deaths began to increase exponentially worldwide. Such an extraordinary event will have long-term effects on mental health according to previous studies of epidemics and quarantine. The COVID-19 pandemic is classifiable as a traumatic event of exceptional magnitude that transcends the range of normal human experience with exposure to risk of death. These aspects can trigger psychopathologies such as acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorders (Benfante et al., 2020).
Healthcare workers have been faced with unprecedented demands, both professionally and personally, in efforts to manage a disease with unclear etiology and pathology, no cure, no vaccine, and a high mortality rate. They are obliged to make difficult ethical decisions and function professionally under conditions of fear for themselves and their loved ones (Benfante et al., 2020).
Meta-analyses have found a high prevalence of anxious and depressive symptoms among healthcare workers, especially among women and nurses. In addition, a series of recent reviews highlighted that risk factors, such as being female, younger, being a nurse, lack of adequate protective equipment, and exposure to infected people, have been found to be associated to trauma-related symptoms in previous epidemics. Available studies also show an important presence of COVID-19 trauma and stress-related symptoms in the general population and in patients (Benfante et al., 2020).
The multiple sources of distress that face healthcare workers are important to consider, such as concern about the spread of the virus, their own health, the health of their loved ones, and changes in the work environment. Healthcare workers are also at risk for moral injury, that is psychological distress derived from actions (or the impossibility of implementing actions) that violate their personal ethical and moral codes. All these aspects contribute to the possibility that healthcare workers develop psychopathological disorders such as PTSD, severe depression, and substance abuse (Benfante et al., 2020).
Early symptoms of psychological trauma, together with symptoms of anxiety, depression, and insomnia, must be recognized, so that appropriate interventions can consider the organizational needs of healthcare workers, risk and protective factors, and possibly include actions to promote post-traumatic growth. The literature suggests that people exposed to trauma can experiment with positive responses, reconsidering their values and appreciating their lives more as well as their work in emergency situations. These aspects can be fostered by psychological interventions (Benfante et al., 2020).
References: Traumatic Stress
For these references, please go to https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.569935/full.