The stressors of the pandemic are catching up to people, enough so that the American Psychiatric Association is considering adding "Covid Stress Syndrome" to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, commonly known as the DSM. This is the manual that defines all mental health conditions for all sectors of healthcare. Research has shown that many are concerned about the dangers of Covid-19, which is understandable given the nature of the virus. The emotion most study participants reported experiencing during these times was worry. Additionally, there appears to be a correlation between the severity of Covid Stress Syndrome and pre-existing mental illness, which is important to know for anyone who already experienced anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc. before the pandemic.
Specifically, the symptoms of Covid Stress Syndrome appear to be....
1. Fear of the dangerousness of COVID‐19, which includes fear of coming into contact with objects potentially contaminated with SARSCoV2
2. Worry about socioeconomic costs of COVID‐19 (e.g., worry about personal finances and disruption in the supply chain)
3. Xenophobic fears that foreigners are spreading SARSCoV2
4. Traumatic stress symptoms associated with direct or vicarious traumatic exposure to COVID‐19 (nightmares, intrusive thoughts, or images related to COVID‐19)
5. COVID‐19‐related compulsive checking and reassurance seeking
In East Asian Medicine, one of the tools we utilize for helping patients with emotional rebalancing is 5 Element Theory. Worry is one of the primary emotions and is associated with the Earth element.
Worry is a healthy emotion so long as it does not overwhelm us. Thankfully, there are acupuncture treatment protocols that are specifically designed to help people manage their worry and rebalance their emotions. Interestingly, I've been using many of these protocols since I returned to my acupuncture practice after temporarily closing last spring.
If you suspect you might have Covid Stress Syndrome or you might be developing it, it's important that you seek support from a mental health provider. It's been my experience that patients who work with a therapist and also receive acupuncture tend to have a better handle on their emotional health.
Though a vaccine is likely coming around springtime next year and potentially restrictions may get more relaxed as 2021 progresses, the traumatic effects from Covid Stress Syndrome may not dissipate so quickly. Now is the time to start seeking support to assist you through these challenging times.