PTSD as the second tsunami of the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic

Psychol Med. 2021 Jul;51(10):1773-1774. doi: 10.1017/S0033291720001336. Epub 2020 Apr 24.


Since the first cases, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) rapidly spread around the world, with hundred-thousand cases and thousands of deaths. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a common consequence of major disasters. Exceptional epidemic situations also promoted PTSD in the past. Considering that humanity is undergoing the most severe pandemic since Spanish Influenza, the actual pandemic of COVID-19 is very likely to promote PTSD. Moreover, COVID-19 was renamed severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-Cov-2). With a poor understanding of viruses and spreading mechanisms, the evocation of SARS is generating a great anxiety contributing to promote PTSD. Quarantine of infected patients evolved to quarantine of 'infected' towns or popular districts, and then of entire countries. In the families of cases, the brutal death of family members involved a spread of fear and a loss of certainty, promoting PTSD. In the context of disaster medicine with a lack of human and technical resources, healthcare workers could also develop acute stress disorders, potentially degenerating into chronic PTSD. Globally, WHO estimates 30-50% of the population affected by a disaster suffered from diverse psychological distress. PTSD individuals are more at-risk of suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, and deaths by suicide - considering that healthcare workers are already at-risk occupations. We draw attention towards PTSD as a secondary effect of the SARS-Cov-2 pandemic, both for general population, patients, and healthcare workers. Healthcare policies need to take into account preventive strategy of PTSD, and the related risk of suicide, in forthcoming months.

Publication types

  • Comment

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human*
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / epidemiology