Feeling blue and think you might have PTSD? Seek professional help before jumping to the wrong diagnosis, expert advises

Whether you’re a frontline worker, a COVID-19 survivor or just trying to make it through each day, everyone has likely experienced some low emotional moments during the coronavirus pandemic. But how can you tell if your feelings are a case of the blues or a signal to seek professional help for post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD?

Dr. Luana Marques, associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a clinical psychologist explains that post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychological disorder that occurs after one experiences a traumatic event like a severe car accident, combat stress, or any other threat to life.

Marques says it is normal to feel stressed and depressed under those circumstances.

“After a traumatic event, biologically, we’re actually wired to have a stress response,” Marques tells Yahoo Life. “That stress eventually may lead to symptoms like difficulty sleeping, nightmares, difficulty concentrating [and] being on guard all the time.”

Marques says that when we put all of those symptoms together it could look like a case of PTSD but she warns not to jump to conclusions.

“It's really important to remember that immediately after traumatic events, no matter how difficult it is, one can not have the diagnosis of PTSD,” she says. “Only about three months after is when we start to talk about, is that person developing the symptoms of PTSD?”

According to Marques, data shows that frontline workers are experiencing a spike in depression, stress and anxiety but there is minimal to no data related to COVID-19 stressors leading to the disorder.

While we are all at risk of developing PTSD, Marques points out certain factors that make frontline workers more vulnerable. “If they struggled with any emotional health difficulties before and now they're facing this really heightened threat, day in [and] day out, your brain is constantly on this ‘fight or flight’ [response]. It might increase your likelihood of actually developing PTSD,” Marques says.

She goes on to say, “We know that women are more likely to develop PTSD [and] individuals that had a history of depression and physical pain also have increased likelihood.”

Whether you have a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder or not, Marques wants everyone to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms.

Warning signs of PTSD

  • Self-isolation

  • Disconnecting from others

  • Mood swings

  • Nightmares

Symptoms of PTSD

  • Re-experiencing traumatic events

  • Avoiding trauma-related cues

  • Negative thoughts and feelings related to trauma

  • Trauma related arousal

If you are struggling emotionally, Marques says to do the following to decrease the likelihood of developing PTSD. She also recommends seeking professional help.

How to decrease likelihood of developing PTSD

  • Practice good sleep hygiene

  • Social support system

  • Give your brain a break

If you are diagnosed with PTSD and you’re wondering if it ever goes away, Marques says to treat it like any other infection. If you don’t treat it, it won’t go away. Seek psychotherapy and use only FDA-approved medications. “It is not easy to get better,” Marques says. “[But] the reality is, there's a lot of hope and very good treatment for post-traumatic stress.”

June is PTSD awareness month and PTSD Awareness Day is Saturday, June 27. Dr. Marques encourages everyone to take care of their mental health all year long.

For more information about how to take care of your mental health visit the following websites.

For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC’s and WHO’s resource guides.

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