Wholeness Healing Today

Is the Pandemic Causing Trauma?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently cited a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. WHO stated that this is a worldwide event calling for all countries to step up mental health services and support. (World Health Organization, 2022) Our local communities are a microcosm of this as we are certainly seeing the increase of mental health needs in our local  communities. Referrals for mental health services are at an all-time high. There are not enough providers to go around and wait lists for services are becoming a norm throughout the country.

Understanding what we are experiencing is important for appropriate treatment. Experts are debating whether the term “trauma” applies to the pandemic. The word trauma is often associated with violent experiences. It is important to understand that you don’t have to experience violence to experience trauma. Generally, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is associated with being exposed to a traumatic event such as a car accident, sexual assault, war, etc.

However, one of the key guideposts for PTSD is feeling on guard and unsafe in the world. Along with not feeling safe, some people have experienced an increase in negative thoughts, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, along with feelings of being out of control. As mental health providers, we have certainly seen that the trauma of the constant lack of security, etc. has also triggered the rise of people addressing their past trauma – traumas they experienced as a child, not getting a second look until now.

Collective trauma occurs when a deeply distressing event affects an entire community and creates a shared impact such as a natural disaster. The pandemic is different as it isn’t something that just happened and was gone. There is not one clear single event but a series of ongoing moments/ days/weeks/ and years. It has been here, moving slowing but wreaking havoc in its wake and impacting us as it heightens our sense of impending doom, lack of safety, and fear of what might happen. Two years is a long time to manage this sort of situation or crisis. There is no clear ending in sight which also is significant in managing how we are going to respond. The impending danger heightens emotions. Even if we, ourselves, have not directly lost anyone to Covid-19, there is that constant exposure through the media of all the traumas that others are dealing with and experiencing. Watching the news and being witness to the repeated exposure to possibly traumatic information online or TV may impact us indirectly. So, whether we have personally had an event from Covid or we are witnessing it, directly or indirectly, it may be impacting us and chipping away at our own mental health.

Regardless of how we term it, one thing is clear – mental health issues have escalated over the past two years. (Lonsdorf, 2022) We aren’t meant to live under this kind of unrelenting stress for such a long period of time. This can wear on our ability to cope and regulate our emotions. Our tolerances get low and our ability to manage things get compromised.

Whether we call it trauma or not, generally, psychologists agree that the pandemic’s devastating consequences have spared almost no one. (Lati, 2021) Almost everyone has had to make a shift or a sacrifice in their lives due to the pandemic, whether it is missing out on community support to mourn the loss of someone, job changes, future events being paused, and/or living in the overall uncertainty of what the future might bring.

Maintaining hope has to be there but it is difficult when there is a lack of a clear endpoint. When our stress systems are overworked, we do have trouble managing our mental health. Symptoms of PTSD can include irritability, trouble sleeping, drinking more than usual, fatigue, loss of joy, anxiety, memory problems, poor concentration, nightmares, headache and stomach issues. If these symptoms are showing up in your life, consider some ways to prioritize your mental health needs.

Whether you are dealing with trauma, anxiety or depression, it is important to realize that traumatic stress reactions to future and indirect exposure do exist. Taking action to manage the symptoms and resolve the difficult feelings is important to your sense of wellbeing. As a world, we have been through a lot, so pay attention, don’t minimize how you or your loved ones feel, and take steps to make sure you are back on your feet in a good way with a clear goal of keeping your mental health in check.

Works Cited

Bridgland, V., & Moeck, E. (2021, Jan 11). Why the COVID-19 pandemic is a traumatic stressor. Retrieved from National Library of Medicine: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33428630/#:~:text=Taken%20together%2C%20our%20findings%20support,psychosocial%20functioning%2C%20etc.).

Lati, M. (2021, December 24). https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/12/24/collective-trauma-public-outbursts/. Retrieved from www.washingtonpost.com:www.washingtonpost.com

Lonsdorf, K. (2022, April 7). www.npr.org/2022/0407/1087195915/covid-pandemictrauma-mentalhealth. Retrieved from www.npr.org/: http://www.npr.org

Moog, M. (2022, March). Healthmatters.nyp.org/understanding-pandemic-related-ptsd/.Retrieved from https://healthmatters.nyp.org: https://healthmatters.nyp.org

World Health Organization. (2022, March 2).Retrieved from World Health Organization:https://www.who.int/

Tags: , ,


  • Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
    Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner

  • Janie Pfeifer Watson, LICSW, is the founder and director of Wholeness Healing Center, a mental health practice in Grand Island, Nebraska with remote sites in Broken Bow and Kearney. Her expertise encompasses a broad range of areas, including depression, anxiety, attachment and bonding, coaching, couples work, mindfulness, trauma, and grief. She views therapy as an opportunity to learn more about yourself as you step more into being your authentic self. From her perspective this is part of the spiritual journey; on this journey, she serves as a mirror for her clients as they get to know themselves—and, ultimately, to love themselves.


Subscribe today

Sign up to receive the latest mental health tips and inspiration

If you have a question, click below and receive prompt confidential help

Ask A Question