Long COVID and post-traumatic stress: Everything you need to know!
Published 23 Feb 2021 • By Clémence Arnaud
The coronavirus pandemic has had numerous impacts on the population. Beyond the short-term consequences, for some people the virus will have long-term consequences.
What is post-traumatic stress disorder? What does the term "Long COVID" mean? Is there specific care for Long COVID?
We tell you everything in our article!
Post-traumatic stress: definition, symptoms and causes
Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD can impact an individual's life from a social, physical or psychological point of view. It often occurs following a traumatic event and is a recurring phenomenon over time.
The symptoms are identical to those experienced during a period of severe stress, but other symptoms can be added, such as sleep disorders, panic attacks, anxiety attacks, etc.
These symptoms can last for a brief period of time or can last for months or even years. A prompt diagnosis and quality care can reduce these symptoms and prevent them from recurring.
What is Long COVID?
The illness caused by Long COVID is not yet fully recognised or understood. It is linked to the coronavirus (SaRS-CoV-2) epidemic and has started to appear more and more in patients who have been affected by the virus.
Long COVID manifests differently in each individual, with more or less severe forms. Symptoms include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Joint pain
- Neurological disorders
- Skin disorders
Many questions are still unanswered: What is the causal link between these symptoms and COVID-19? How can acute symptoms of the illness be distinguished from symptoms that may become chronic?
Several studies are being conducted to gain a better understanding of this syndrome, such as the study carried out as part of the ComPaRe scheme of the Assistance publique des hôpitaux de Paris (Paris Hospitals Public Assistance). The ComPaRe study began at the end of October, with the participation of more than 600 patients suffering from Long COVID. Each patient was asked questions openly so that they could describe their symptoms. This first phase highlighted nearly 50 different manifestations of Long COVID as shown in the image below.
A second phase is underway to understand the evolution of these patient trends and to obtain even more consistent results.
Post-traumatic stress disorder and its link with COVID-19:
For many people, a stay in the intensive care unit can be a true ordeal. Most of the time, the patient finds themselves with numerous machines and equipment around them that monitor their condition, which can be frightening. By the time the patient wakes up, he or she may feel lost and may have a hard time processing the hospital experience.
In general, patients who have been in the intensive care unit are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder than patients who have not. This typically affects mostly young people or people with no previous medical history.
A study carried out by the Lille University Hospital on 180 patients has shown a 6.5% prevalence of cases of post-traumatic stress. A report from the French Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur regional health observatory indicates that at least 5,500 people could develop PTSD following their COVID hospitalisation out of 133,000 people hospitalised for this condition.
COVID patients are first of all confronted with a physical hurdle to overcome. Indeed, certain patients have to relearn how to walk or feed themselves after having stayed for some time in the ICU. The second hurdle to be faced is psychological, with short and long term effects that can develop.
A number of initiatives are underway to respond to the concerns of patients affected by PTSD related to COVID-19. This may involve care by healthcare professionals (physiotherapists, psychologists, etc.) depending on the needs of the patients. In the UK, a COVID Trauma Response Working Group has been formed to help organise trauma-informed responses to the COVID outbreak. The mental health charity Mind has also published a number of resources to help those experiencing mental health problems during the pandemic. Don't hesitate to get in touch with a healthcare professional to find out about all the existing initiatives near you.
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- Vidal - Etat de stress post-traumatique (ESPT)
- Inserm - Troubles du stress post traumatique
- France Asso Santé - Stress post-traumatique après une réanimation pour Covid-19
- France Asso Santé - Patients dits "covid-long" : la face cachée de la maladie
- APHP - Conséquences à long terme de la covid-19
- ORS PACA - Les risques de troubles de stress post-traumatique chez les personnes hospitalisées pour une covid-19
- Mind - Coping with mental health problems during coronavirus
- COVID Trauma Response Working Group