For the past two years people have been dealing with a series of events that could drive anyone to the edge.
It was first Covid-19, the July unrest, then fuel increases, then the Russia-Ukraine war, more fuel increases, toll prices going up, crime, service delivery issues, Eskom blackouts and many more. This is on top of everything that everyone is going through individually.
Psychologist Kevin Fourie told Weekend Witness that there has been a noticeable increase in the number of people suffering from complex post-traumatic stress disorder.
Fourie said classical post-traumatic stress (PTSD) is when you’re exposed to extremely overwhelming life-threatening situation and then you develop the symptoms of PTSD.
He explained that complex PTSD is when you haven’t really been faced with any life-threatening situation, or a specific situation, but it’s just an accumulation of more and more stuff that becomes overwhelming and you have difficulties dealing with it.
He said symptoms of complex PTSD are similar to those of normal PTSD, but generally not as intense.
“You get anxiety, insomnia, you get emotional blunting, you get irritability and anger outbursts, and general emotional instability.
“We found that with Covid, it was the fear of the disease and economic consequences,” he said.
Fourie said people will be stressed by different things given [the particular] situation they’re in.
“You’ll find that unemployed people won’t care much about what’s going on in Russia and Ukraine, they’re more worried about their daily survival, but the fuel price increase will impact them severely.
“Then there are people who took salary cuts when Covid started and they haven’t gone up.
“People who consume a lot of media will be concerned about what’s going on in Russia and Ukraine and are worrying about how it will affect South Africa and them; this is an additional stressor.
“Then there are concerns that this could become a nuclear war. Well, we don’t know, but it’s possible.
“Then there are additional things like some people are still struggling with long Covid, and grief because of family members and friends that they lost. These are factors that contribute to complex PTSD.”
Fourie advised people to look realistically at what they have control over rather than stressing about everything.
“Lying awake at night worrying about Ukraine is understandable, but it’s not helpful. The most you can do for Ukraine is sign a petition or make a donation. Instead, maybe you can look at your fuel bill and your transport expenses if there are any ways you can reduce those.
“A life skill to learn is to shut off things that you have no control over. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s necessary,” said Fourie.