Over the last 100 years, there is probably no better example of a unified crisis than the COVID-19 pandemic. One would be hard-pressed to find an individual that wasn’t affected by it, either directly or indirectly. Still, just like many other crises, some people survived it with little to no psychological effects. Yet, others are now experiencing trauma and anxiety to varying degrees. Needless to say, getting care for crisis-related anxiety and trauma can be critical for long-term well-being.
The COVID-19 pandemic is a prime example of a universal crisis. However, it is also important to remember that a crisis need not be a shared experience. Besides, ultimately the way one absorbs and processes trauma is unique to them. This is whether it is a shared trauma or not. The point here is that crisis-related trauma and anxiety are always relative to the individual.
A crisis can be localized or happen on a national or global scale. Likewise, they affect everyone in different ways. It is this difference of effect that makes it so crucial to gain a better understanding of what defines a crisis as well as the anxiety and trauma that it can cause. Lastly, learning about the importance of seeking treatment for a crisis can be vital for effectively moving past it.
What Exactly Defines a “Crisis”?
Sometimes when a term permeates the public consciousness to such a high degree, that term begins to lose meaning and definition. It either becomes minimized or misinterpreted. One may argue that this has happened with the word “crisis.” For example, referring to running late for work as a “crisis” deflates the definition of the word. So then, what exactly defines a crisis?
According to an article by StatPearls, “A crisis is defined as an overwhelming event, which can include divorce, violence, the passing of a loved one, or the discovery of a serious illness.” Additionally, “If left unmanaged, a person with a severe crisis can undergo a significant amount of psychological stress, which carries links to major depressive disorder and other mental health conditions.” Notice how this definition focuses on the “left unmanaged” aspect of crisis-related anxiety and trauma. Nonetheless, treatment can be crucial for addressing crises.
A crisis can create a high level of unmanageability in a person’s life, which can be expected from such an often unexpected event. Unfortunately, this visible unmanageability often masks the deeper anxiety and trauma that underlies the behavioral responses to trauma. Yet, it is this anxiety and trauma that must be addressed if that unmanageability is going to be addressed and righted.
The Correlation Between Crisis, Trauma, and Anxiety
It is first important to understand that having negative reactions to crises can be totally normal, and need not signify deeper issues of anxiety and trauma. According to the aforementioned publication by StatPearls, “Initial reactions to trauma can include exhaustion, confusion, sadness, anxiety, agitation, numbness, dissociation, confusion, physical arousal, and blunted affect. Most responses are normal in that they affect most survivors and are socially acceptable, psychologically effective, and self-limited.” Also, understanding this better helps us understand those individuals that have more severe psychological effects from crises.
For those that suffer more severe psychological effects, such as anxiety and trauma, the publication further explains that “Indicators of more severe responses include continuous distress without periods of relative calm or rest, severe dissociation symptoms, and intense intrusive recollections that continue despite a return to safety.” A key word there is “continuous.” That is a significant detail of the difference between a “normal” response to crises and a psychologically detrimental one.
Anxiety and trauma are interwoven with crises because they are a response to an individual’s “inability to respond” to crises in a healthy way. They also happen when that individual is unable to access the coping skills often necessary for dealing with their anxiety and trauma. This is why it can be so critical to reach out to professionals when the effects of crises become overwhelming.
Managing Crisis-Related Anxiety and Trauma for the Long-Term
There are numerous effective, evidence-based treatments for addressing crisis-related anxiety and trauma. However, before getting to that place, it is important to seek professional care and undergo an assessment of what is really going on. For example, for some people, the “crisis point” of their anxiety and trauma is highly visible. The COVID-19 pandemic is a good example of this.
For others, they may need help finding the crisis point that is associated with their anxiety and trauma. This would be for those individuals that were affected by crises specific to their past. It may be from a death in the family, a divorce, or perhaps some form of a violent encounter. Ultimately, regardless of when the crisis happened, it is important to address it to move on.
When going through the darkness of a crisis, it can feel like you’re never going to get to the sunlight on the other side. But as with anything, crises do pass. However, for many of us, it is important to get help to make that passing happen because no one deserves to live their life in crisis. For more information on crisis-related trauma, please contact The Phoenix Recovery Center at (801) 438-3185.