Covid survivors face post-traumatic stress

Naina Mishra

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 9

This year’s World Mental Health Day comes at a time when the entire world is grappling with the Covid-19 pandemic. As the pandemic continues to linger on, a major section of society also continues to face mental health issues.

The traumatic experience of hospitalisation continues to haunt Covid patients even after recovery in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social stigma.

According to doctors, PTSD symptoms such as brain fogging may arise in patients recovered from Covid-19 as a response to invasive measures, including intubation and ventilation, taken to treat them. Brain fog is not a medical condition, but a term used for certain symptoms affecting your ability to think and concentrate.

Dr Sandeep Grover from the Department of Psychiatry, PGIMER, said, “As patients have to stay in hospitals in isolation settings, it leads to PTSD after recovery. The whole experience of getting diagnosed and treated is manifested into flashbacks wherein the patient still feels that he is in isolation or undergoing the same treatment. For say, if a patient was in the ICU or on oxygen therapy, he or she may get flashbacks of the hospital setting or may get nightmares while sleeping. In such cases, patients are re-experiencing or reliving illness. Many patients are experiencing fatigue even after recovery as part of psychiatric manifestation.”

Dr Grover said, “PTSD can last long for an indefinite period depending upon how traumatic the experience of the disease has been.”

Battling stigma, depression

Even as eight months have passed ever since the pandemic broke out, recovered patients are still being stigmatised. Sonia Singh (29) from Sector 36, said, “Even after 21 days of quarantine, people don’t want to connect with me or my family. Some people also told us that affected patients can be infectious till 90 days. Despite being well aware of the disease, I felt I was a criminal as I had contracted the infection.”

Not only this, healthcare workers, who are treating Covid patients, are also struggling with stress. Jagdish Chaudhary, a nursing officer, who has been working at the Covid ward of the PGI since April, said, “There is a constant fear of contracting the infection while working with Covid-19 patients in the ICU. The fear is for passing on the infection to family. Nobody plays with my child as they know I work in Covid hospital. Our neighbours have completely detached themselves from us.”

‘Feel guilty while stepping out of home’

Residents have been compromising with their psychological well-being. A lawyer at the Punjab and Haryana High Court requesting anonymity said, “I am currently receiving only 60 per cent salary. During the lockdown, I had to increase my dosage of depression as I was panicky at initial stage. My depression has again accelerated as I have less work now. I also feel guilty while stepping out of home as I fear I will pass on the infection to my family.”

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