Coronavirus pandemic could inflict long-lasting emotional trauma, PTSD


Health care professionals take a break awaiting patients as they test for COVID-19 at the ProHEALTH testing site in Jericho, New York, March 24, 2020.

Steve Pfost | Newsday RM | Getty Images

Researchers are warning that the coronavirus pandemic could inflict long-lasting emotional trauma on an unprecedented global scale. They say it could leave millions wrestling with debilitating psychological disorders while dashing hopes for a swift economic recovery.

The COVID-19 crisis has combined mental health stressors that have been studied before in other disasters, but which have never been seen consolidated in one global crisis, experts in trauma psychology said.

It has left millions without jobs, sent billions into isolation and forced nearly everyone on earth to grapple with the feeling that they or those they love are suddenly physically vulnerable. The nature of the disease means that there can be no certainty about when the worst will pass. Hundreds of thousands have been infected, thousands have died, the virus continues to spread, and a vaccine could be more than a year away.

“The scale of this outbreak as a traumatic event is almost beyond comprehension,” said Yuval Neria, the director of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder at the New York State Psychiatric Institute and a professor of psychology at Columbia University Medical Center.

Neria, seeking a precedent to point to, said that not even the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks or World War II were adequate…


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