If you or your loved one suffers from PTSD, the COVID-19 pandemic can have an effect on their symptoms. The ways we keep safe during this pandemic by sheltering in place, staying away from loved ones and wearing masks can increase anxiety. According to the National Center for PTSD, here are some ways the pandemic can affect those suffering from PTSD:
- Health and Safety – Many people have concerns about their health and safety during a pandemic but for those with PTSD it can be more intense or more frequent. They may find themselves more anxious even in places they felt safe in the past. There may be more worry about catching the illness. Open public places can be a trigger and those suffering may be more “keyed up” than normal about things other than COVID-19.
- Trauma Triggers – All the talk of COVID – 19 and the constant discussion of it on the news night after night like it is a battle or war can be triggering. If the trauma involved difficulty breathing, wearing a mask can induce panic or other symptoms.
- Avoiding Things That Are Safe – There are plenty of things we can’t do now because of the pandemic but you or your loved one may find themselves avoiding shopping or exercising outside which are considered safe or isolating more than necessary by not communicating over video or telephone.
- Negative Thoughts and Feelings May Increase – Some examples are feeling you have no control over anything due to COVID-19. Activities you normally do to control your symptoms may not be available to you causing irritability. Spending more time with loved ones than usual can cause a short fuse. Feelings of guilt and shame can arise over not being able to do something for yourself.
- Sleep and Concentration – You may find falling asleep or concentrating more difficult due to the pandemic. An increase in PTSD symptoms can effect the quality of your sleep.
Visit the Veterans Administration’s The National Center for PTSD for more information and resources available during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
There has not been enough research on whether dogs help treat PTSD but owning a dog helps you feel less stress, lifts your mood, and helps you feel better by providing companionship. All owners including those with PTSD can receive these benefits. Some treatments for PTSD include the use of service dogs or emotional support dogs but these are not substitutes for effective PTSD treatment. According to The National Center for PTSD, here are some other benefits:
- Help bring out feelings of love.
- Are good companions.
- Take orders well when trained. This can be very comfortable for a Servicemember or Veteran who was used to giving orders in the military.
- Are fun and can help reduce stress.
- Are a good reason to get out of the house, spend time outdoors, and meet new people.
The VA does not provide service dogs but it does provide veterinary care for service dogs (not emotional support animals or pets) that are medically necessary for Veterans with permanent physical conditions. The VA has an ongoing research study on dogs and PTSD which will take several years. If the research determines that use of service dogs is beneficial for PTSD then the VA will provide veterinary care for these dogs.
For those interested in adopting a dog to help combat feelings of isolation during this pandemic here are some resources:
Pets for Patriots – This organizational helps Veterans adopt a dog or cat from local shelters as a pet and they are not service animals. You must have a DD-214 to determine eligibility. If you are accepted into their program there are lots of benefits that can help reduce the costs of pet care. They will help you find, adopt and afford a pet. From their website, benefits include:
- ADOPTION SPECIAL – Our shelter partners provide at least one additional benefit to you upon adoption, such as pet training, ‘day one’ essentials or adoption fee discounts.
- DISCOUNTED PET CARE – Every one of our veterinary partners offers a minimum ongoing 10% fee discount for the care of pets adopted through our program.
- MEMBERS-ONLY DISCOUNTS – We curate exclusive discounts from high-quality pet e-tailers to help veterans in our program save money on pet health insurance, treats, pet food, medication and supplies from trusted brands.
- ‘WELCOME HOME’ GIFT CARD – We give a one-time $150 pet retailer e-gift to help with the purchase of pet food, supplies, and essentials, and which can be used online or in-store. Arrangements available for veterans without internet access.
- PRE-ADOPTION COUNSELING – Have questions about pet adoption, our program, or just need a ‘helping paw’ at the shelter? Our team is available to make your pet adoption process as smooth as possible.
- POST-ADOPTION FOLLOW UP – We’ve got your six! While our official follow up occurs over a one-year period, we’re always here if you have questions, need information or other pet-related assistance.
- VIP PETCARE PARTNERSHIP – Veterans who adopt an eligible dog or cat through Pets for Patriots now have access to additional savings on affordable, routine, preventative veterinary care through our partnership with VIP Petcare.
Pets for Vets – Veterans must go to their website to apply. This program provides a four step process called ‘Super Bond’. It helps a Veteran find the perfect pet for their situation in four steps:
- Step 1 Getting to Know the Veteran – They spend time with the Veteran to learn about what will be the best pet fit for them based on lifestyle, personality, and needs. This helps them pick the perfect Pet for the Veteran.
- Step 2 Getting to Know the Veteran – The next step involves getting to know the animal so they can find the best fit for the Veteran.
- Step 3 Training – Founder Clarissa Black designed a training program using positive reinforcement training philosophy. This helps the Veteran and the dog build trust and respect while not using force.
- Step 4 The Match – This is the day that brings the Veteran and their new pet together.
American Humane – First to Serve – This is an organization devoted to the safety and welfare of animals and it has a variety of military initiatives. One is theirPups4Patriots which rescues unwanted dogs and trains them to be service dogs for veterans with PTSD and TBI. They also do grants to help Veterans pay for and care for a service dog and help navigate the applications process for a PTS service dog. Currently there are no national standards for PTS service dogs which leads to many obstacles for Veterans. American Humane is leading an effort to create national training standards and advocate for the rights of Veterans and their dogs.
A pet can be a great way to help those suffering from isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’d like to help any of these organizations accept volunteers or donations to help with their missions.
Marguerite Cleveland is a freelance writer who specializes in human interest and travel stories. She is a military brat, a veteran and now a military spouse. Her military experience is vast as the daughter of a Navy man who served as an enlisted sailor and then Naval Officer. She served as an enlisted soldier in the reserves and on active duty, then as an Army Officer. She currently serves as a military spouse. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons. Visit her website www.PeggyWhereShouldIGo.com