While it is well documented that the incidence of mental illness disorders and substance misuse increased during the pandemic, what many don’t know is about is post-pandemic stress disorder, a series of emotional and behavioral disturbances brought on as society continues to transition into “normal” living patterns, says David Cohen, LCSW at Harmony Place, a treatment facility for those with mental health and addiction challenges.
During COVID-19, the World Health Organization reported a staggering 25% increase in reports of anxiety and depression and a corresponding increase in drug misuse to cope with those disorders. The CDC reported that during that time 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing substance misuse and, tragically, a 30% increase in overdoses compared with pre-pandemic levels. Meanwhile, research conducted by Boston University discovered depression rates tripled and symptoms worsened over the pandemic i.e., 32.8% of Americans experienced heightened depressive symptoms in 2021, compared to 27.8% percent in 2020 and just 8.5% before the pandemic.
So, what are the symptoms of post-pandemic stress disorder? Cohen says it presents itself much like traditional PTSD: heightened feelings of fear and anxiety, recurrent and intrusive thoughts, presence of negative emotions, social withdrawal, sleep disorders, nightmares, change in eating behavior, feeling of powerlessness and feeling “numb.”
“As we saw during the pandemic, there was a dramatic increase in drug misuse and mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, paranoia and other related conditions,” says Cohen. “As lockdowns, mask-wearing and social distancing became less of an issue and folks began to resume their pre-pandemic lives, these issues have not let up and, in fact, we’re seeing a slight increase in them.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness acknowledges post-pandemic stress disorder and has coined the term, “fear of normal” (FON) to describe it. That organization says, “As we inch towards a new normal, a first good step is recognizing that the pandemic is a traumatic event we collectively experienced. Then, we can take extra care to address the underlying emotions and the reality of returning to normal”
To address those dealing with early signs of post-pandemic stress disorder, Harmony Place along with the National Alliance on Mental Illness recommends: practicing mindfulness activities like meditation, exercising to naturally produce stress-relieving hormones in the body, eating healthy (a Mediterranean diet is an ideal starting point), getting enough sleep and staying connected with positive friends and family members.
If these lifestyle changes fail to alleviate the symptoms, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Consulting with a qualified mental health professional may be in order.
Harmony Place is located at 23041 Hatteras St, Woodland Hills, CA. Visit www.harmonyplace.com for more information or call (888) 416-2046.
23041 Hatteras St