Ask the Expert, Tamar Rodney, PhD, PMHNP-BC: The Global Experience of COVID is Impacting Life

I can’t sleep, I feel irritated and fearful. And I worry about everything. I haven’t felt like myself in who knows how long. Could all these feelings be from the pandemic? In this video, Dr. Rodney answers your questions about mental health treatment.

Tamar Rodney, PhD, PMHNP-BC, CNE is an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. Her research and clinical work focus primarily on improving PTSD diagnosis and treatment.

Read this article, featuring Dr. Rodney, about COVID-related PSTD.

For information about treatments for PTSD please visit The Treatment Hub.

Hi. I’m Dr. Tamar Rodney, a psych nurse practitioner, and here’s your question. I can’t sleep. I feel irritated and fearful. I worry about everything. I haven’t felt like myself in who knows how long. Could all these feelings be from the pandemic?

This is such a great question, and the short answer is yes. And what we’re seeing described here are classic signs of a trauma response: sleep, irritation, and having the sense of worry about everything are classic signs from what I’m going to call a global experience that we’ve all been going through. And what I want to pay attention to is how these feelings disrupt your ability to engage in your daily activities, and that is not sleeping enough or frequent awakenings, how does that impact your ability to go to work or be productive at work or interacting with others? And then you mentioned about worrying. What you really want to judge here, is it out of context? We do have a lot to worry about. There’s a lot we still don’t know. We’re going through the pandemic at the minute. But is your sense of worry out of context with the way you’ve responded with other things? And this feeling about being irritated, there’s, again, so much to be irritated about, but is it irritation to the point where you’re not happy about being around people and individuals aren’t happy about being with you either?

The next thing I would want you to consider is that these are legitimate feelings. We’ve been going through the pandemic now for more than 18 months, and we usually see this feeling of sleep disruption, worry and fear about three to six months after experiencing something which I’m going to call traumatic because that is what it has been for many individuals. So, recognizing these feelings, but that’s not enough. What do you do next?

First thing I would say is talk to those around you who you trust who are feeling the same things that you’re feeling. And so it’s a process of what I would say validating what you’re feeling. And then you do want to generally think is it at a level where you do need to get professional help? So, talk to your primary care provider. And as a mental health care provider, I would say of course I would love to address these symptoms with you in my practice. And so getting a referral to someone who addresses unique mental health needs is the next step that you would want to consider, depending on how disruptive it is for your ability to engage in your day-to-day activities. So, again, such an important topic to recognize those feelings but also trying to get the help you need before these symptoms might get to the point where it’s too much and you’re not able to do the things that you previously enjoy or to be productive in your job or work or school.

And so thank you for a wonderful question that I think many of us have at least thought about a couple of times.

BrainLine is powered in part by Wounded Warrior Project to honor and empower post-9/11 injured service members, veterans, and their families.

Posted on BrainLine November 17, 2021. Reviewed November 17, 2021.