PTSD triggers a strong fight, flight, or freeze response in sufferers. In something like a pandemic, they can remain trapped in this mode, navigating a flood of powerful brain chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline that ‘normal’ people only experience under severe duress.
These can change reactions and personality, leaving your loved one lashing out or seeming ‘like another person’.
Also note that addiction can cause huge mood swings. If your friend or loved one has long had a secret addiction they cannot fulfill in quarantine or lockdown — porn, alcohol, drug use, workaholism, sex, food? They can become edgy and mean.
3. Immobilised by fear and paranoia.
Is your loved one sending long, detailed emails about all the possible outcomes of the pandemic?
Or unable to stop talking even for a minute about everything that needs to be done to stay safe?
Do they seem tense, are they clenching their fists or jaw? Or sweating?
Generalised anxiety disorder feeds onfear and a diet of increasingly illogical thoughts. In a time where fear is in some ways merited, anxiety sufferers can be heavily triggered.
Note that severe anxiety can also be a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder and complex PTSD.
Is your friend, who is usually practical and calm, going on dates with strangers when they are supposed to be isolating?
Not obeying rules and handshaking or hugging?
Acting as if Covid-19 doesn’t exist?
Again, if your friend is not usually reckless, it could be a manic episode and signify bipolar disorder. Or it could be severe depression and your friend might be in self-destruct mode and really need support.
Is a loved one suddenly not responding? Does it seem their phone is even off?
Have their other friends also not seen them?
Depression has social withdrawal as a symptom. Full withdrawal usually signifies quite extreme depression. Do what you can to find your friend and connect.
7. Pushing everyone away.
Has your loved one been suddenly hostile?
Are they accusing you of not caring?
Are they saying things that seemed designed to push you away?
Again, depression. When we are depressed ourself-worth plummets. And in order to ‘prove’ we are unworthy and a ‘monster’ we find ways to push people away and then tell ourselves, “See? I knew it. Nobody likes me.”
Partner tossing and turning all night and up before you?
Swears they are ‘fine’?
Or friend leaving you intense messages in the middle of the night?
Stress itself causes sleep problems, so it’s to be expected that many of us will struggle with sleep at this time.
But sleeplessness is also sign of depression and anxiety, so it can be worth noting if there are symptoms of either at play. If you are feel calm in the day but wake up suddenly in the night with a pounding heart and feelings of fear, it can be night anxiety.
9. Not taking appropriate action.
Do you have a smart friend who is acting suddenly very stupid?
Not getting in enough groceries or supplies?
Seeming to suddenly be sitting around doing nothing?
Oddly quiet on the phone, or saying disjointed, senseless things?
Brain fog is caused by depression. It makes it hard for someone to think straight and take action. Depression also has a physical component, leaving someone feeling deeply exhausted even if they sleep, or as if their limbs are weak and they are pushing through wet sand. Real life can seem far away and unreal.
Anxiety, if it goes into overdrive, can lead to what’s known as ‘dissociation‘. This means someone doesn’t feel able to ‘stay in their body’, but has a sense of floating outside of themselves. This evidently makes thinking and acting logically a challenge.
And PTSD, which has anxiety as a symptom, can also lead to extreme dissociation and ‘foggy thinking’.
What do I do if a loved one seems triggered?
If someone is experiencing mental health issues, it can be harder than usual tocommunicate with them.
Do reach out anyway – what matters is that the other person feels cared for. But if possible educate yourself first on best ways to help those in distress, such as by reading our articles: