Covid-19 and emotional distress

Surgeon in Uniform

We are living through an unprecedented situation. The pandemic is both bringing out the best in people and taking its emotional toll on us in our different circumstances. As the facts unfold I am learning all I can about the effects of this disease on psychological wellbeing and on using the optimal methods of therapeutic intervention to address its impact.

Covid-19 survivors

People who have required medical intervention to survive this life-threatening virus may have spent weeks or months in hospital and required ventilation in an Intensive Care Unit. This is highly traumatic and early research is finding that serious physical and cognitive symptoms may remain well after initial recovery. Psychological effects include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, cognitive and memory problems, survivor guilt  and ongoing hypervigilance to threat with heightened generalised anxiety.  Therapy aims to help survivors to process this traumatic experience, to normalise their response and to learn resilience to manage psychological symptoms.

Front-line medical and key support staff:

Front line medical staff report feeling physically exhausted and mentally overwhelmed and stressed by the effects of this devastating disease, at work and at home. Some issues include personal risk, fear of contaminating others,  organisational pressure, access to adequate PPE, the trauma of witnessing higher volumes of severe illness and death and extreme changes in the working environment. They are at high risk of developing burnout and PTSD.

Other public-facing key workers including supermarket staff, school teachers, bus and taxi drivers  and those shielding the vulnerable will also be stressed by the pervasive awareness of increased risk and need for vigilance.

Therapy involves providing a reflective space to take stock of these experiences and their emotional impact and to maximise the effectiveness of coping skills.   

 

Relatives and friends of Covid-19 patients 

Those close to covid-19 patients have been unable to visit their very poorly relatives and may have seen distressing images of them in hospital. Many are bereaved and unable to observe the normal funeral conventions.  They may have experienced shock at the sudden loss of a previously healthy relative and have felt helpless to make a difference.  This may cause a number of complex emotional difficulties and therapy seeks to help the person process their experience, to grieve and develop resilience to enable  self-soothing and adjustment.

 

Everyone else

 

Most people are experiencing some degree of fluctuating, heightened anxiety due to the pervasive but invisible threat that we and our loved-ones may contract Covid-19. This has caused a major upheaval to our usual way of life. As well as causing distress in itself, this invisible threat exacerbates any existing emotional difficulties. Lock-down has required us to deprive ourselves of many activities and social contacts that we used to take for granted and to re-think how to use our time. Therapy aims to help clients to understand that this is a normal response, to adjust to the situation as well as we can and to learn skills to help regulate our thoughts and emotions.  

Remote sessions to keep you safe

Clients tell me they prefer and enjoy the personal contact we can achieve through our video link sessions, saying it's like being in the same room together, and a welcome break from the distraction of thinking about risks, masks and PPE. We can arrange sessions at your convenience from wherever you can find a quiet spot where you will be undisturbed for an hour.

 

I am offering online or telephone sessions to manage the current risk of transmission, consistent with national guidelines. This can be by  *Zoom, *Skype, *WhatsApp, *FaceTime and *telephone. We can send any documents by post and email, whilst any written therapy exercises are easy to share instantly by WhatsApp, FaceTime, email, etc. 

 

I will keep this under review and when safe, will offer a choice of online and in-person sessions at my consulting rooms in Jesmond, Newcastle.