ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The worst of the pandemic may be behind us, but those who have been in constant crisis mode could now suffer long lasting effects in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“The kind of traumas that they’re under are similar to what combat medics face in the war zone,” said psychologist Dr. Shauna Springer.
And it’s not just frontline workers. “I think one of the things from this year is that trauma is no longer this abstract thing that happens to this one group over there, veterans or first responders, it is personal and we’re all feeling it,” Springer said.
And comparative suffering—equating your pain to someone else’s—doesn’t help.
“It’s really an obstacle to getting support for where we’re suffering, because if we continue to do that and say, ‘Well, my suffering isn’t worthy of attention,’ then we are going to keep suffering in silence,” Springer said.
Dr. Springer says frontline workers can be masters at compartmentalizing, but they need to offload some of that pressure by talking to others. “The biggest protective factor is this: when we connect, we survive. The good news is there are really innovative new treatments that can specifically address the biological injury, that state of fight or flight,” she said.
One of those is called stellate ganglion block. It’s an injection in the neck, affecting the nerves near the voice box. In a recent trial, 34% of patients who received it saw improvement, compared to 15% of the placebo group. It’s not a magic cure, but can make therapy more effective.
“When people get calm in their own bodies the therapy, everything they do takes a whole new traction, and they can really take it in and make great gains with it,” she said.
Dr. Springer believes long lasting outcomes rely on combining biological treatments with psychological ones, like therapy. While there is no definitive cure for PTSD, there are many treatments to reduce symptoms, so it’s important to get help if you’re struggling.