Long COVID and post-traumatic stress: Everything you need to know!

Published Feb 23, 2021 • By Clémence Arnaud

The coronavirus pandemic has had numerous impacts on the population. Beyond the short-term consequences, for some people the virus will have long-term consequences. 

What is post-traumatic stress disorder? What does the term "Long COVID" mean? Is there specific care for Long COVID?

We tell you everything in our article!

Long COVID and post-traumatic stress: Everything you need to know!

Post-traumatic stress: definition, symptoms and causes

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD can impact an individual's life from a social, physical or psychological point of view. It often occurs following a traumatic event and is a recurring phenomenon over time.

The symptoms are identical to those experienced during a period of severe stress, but other symptoms can be added, such as sleep disorders, panic attacks, anxiety attacks, etc.

These symptoms can last for a brief period of time or can last for months or even years. A prompt diagnosis and quality care can reduce these symptoms and prevent them from recurring.

What is Long COVID? 

The illness caused by Long COVID is not yet fully recognized or understood. It is linked to the coronavirus (SaRS-CoV-2) epidemic and has started to appear more and more in patients who have been affected by the virus. 

Long COVID manifests differently in each individual, with more or less severe forms. Symptoms include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Joint pain
  • Neurological disorders
  • Skin disorders

Many questions are still unanswered: What is the causal link between these symptoms and COVID-19? How can acute symptoms of the illness be distinguished from symptoms that may become chronic?

Several studies are being conducted to gain a better understanding of this syndrome, such as the study carried out as part of the ComPaRe scheme of the Assistance publique des hôpitaux de Paris (Paris Hospitals Public Assistance). The ComPaRe study began at the end of October, with the participation of more than 600 patients suffering from Long COVID. Each patient was asked questions openly so that they could describe their symptoms. This first phase highlighted nearly 50 different manifestations of Long COVID as shown in the image below.


Source: APHP ComPaRe - Conséquences à long terme de la covid-19

A second phase is underway to understand the evolution of these patient trends and to obtain even more consistent results. 

>>> Read a Carenity member's testimonial about Long COVID <<<

Post-traumatic stress disorder and its link with COVID-19:

For many people, a stay in the intensive care unit can be a true ordeal. Most of the time, the patient finds themselves with numerous machines and equipment around them that monitor their condition, which can be frightening. By the time the patient wakes up, he or she may feel lost and may have a hard time processing the hospital experience.

In general, patients who have been in the intensive care unit are more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder than patients who have not. This typically affects mostly young people or people with no previous medical history.

A study carried out by the Lille University Hospital on 180 patients has shown a 6.5% prevalence of cases of post-traumatic stress. A report from the French Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur regional health observatory indicates that at least 5,500 people could develop PTSD following their COVID hospitalization out of 133,000 people hospitalized for this condition.

COVID patients are first of all confronted with a physical hurdle to overcome. Indeed, certain patients have to relearn how to walk or feed themselves after having stayed for some time in the ICU. The second hurdle to be faced is psychological, with short and long term effects that can develop.

Finding care: 

A number of initiatives are underway to respond to the concerns of patients affected by PTSD related to COVID-19. This may involve care by healthcare professionals (physiotherapists, psychologists, etc.) depending on the needs of the patients.

In the US, the National Center for PTSD has published a number of resources for those experience mental health issues during the pandemic, including the general population, health care workers and responders, and employers and community leaders.

Among these resources is COVID Coach, a free mobile app designed to help people build resilience, manage stress, and increase well-being during the pandemic with tools to help them stay connected, work from home, navigate parenting or caregiving, and stay healthy while sheltering in place. You can download COVID Coach for iOS here and for Android here.

In addition, don't hesitate to get in touch with a healthcare professional to find out about all the existing initiatives near you.

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Take care!


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