The Impact of the Pandemic as a Cause of Trauma on Children and Adolescents

A pandemic is a trauma due to the sudden and unexpected deterioration of existing conditions, interruption of routine and endangerment of physical integrity. The Covid-19 virus, which is called a biological disaster and has taken the world under its influence, has dragged all humanity into panic with the new century epidemic. It has had important effects on public health as well as affecting the economic and social areas of every country. While psychopathologies of individuals already affect daily life under normal conditions, the impact of these pathologies on individual and social life is felt more in extraordinary situations. During the pandemic period, the anxiety caused by the social uncertainty and lack of tolerance for uncertainty, loss of freedom due to isolation and the risk of contamination has been shared by every citizen.

Apart from the common effects that society gives to each individual, the pandemic has also affected the psychosocial well-being of individuals depending on their developmental period. Since children, adolescents and the elderly are in the disadvantaged group, they are considered to be more risky in terms of their sensitivity to stress. The compulsory isolation of children and adolescents, who make up almost half of the population, from school life and their peers creates a risk in itself, apart from the pandemic period. In addition, the increase in the stress level of parents related to economic and health problems has increased the possibility of domestic abuse, which is reflected in the mental health of children and adolescents.

The fear of infection brought by the pandemic period, the lack of personal space in the home environment due to isolation, the financial loss of the family due to social economic problems, the problem of insufficient information in the online education environment and the boredom of not being able to establish social relations are important sources of stress for children and adolescents. In addition to all these, this stress is felt more intensely on children and adolescents with mental disorders. Some fears, which are considered normal according to their developmental stages, have disrupted the functionality in the lives of children and adolescents due to their intense experience during the pandemic period. For example; While fear of illness is considered normal in children aged 6-12, this fear has been severe due to the unusually developing pandemic, and even this has created a picture of illness anxiety disorder. The pandemic is a risky process in terms of the possibility of being diagnosed with illness anxiety disorder in genetically predisposed children and adolescents or in the future. The functionality of children and adolescents with hyperactivity is seriously impaired due to limitation of movement. Lack of personal space and isolation from their peers had a more negative impact on adolescents. In accordance with the characteristics of the developmental stage, the adolescent, who became individualized by getting away from the family and spending time with his peers, started to spend more time with his family, on the contrary, during the pandemic period. This leads to family conflicts and communication problems. There has been an increase in the existing behavior problems of children with special needs and developmental support and/or education due to the temporary closure of the institutions they receive service from due to the pandemic and the interruption of the ongoing program in some cases. The failure of children and adolescents with a diagnosis of autism, specific learning disorder, down syndrome, mental retardation and ADHD to receive academic education, social skills training and medical treatment has worsened their pathologies.

In addition to neurodevelopmental disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, acute stress disorder, mood disorder, anxiety disorders, obsessive compulsive disorders and somatoform disorders have created a great risk for children and adolescents during the pandemic period.

Children and adolescents with anxiety disorders have begun to experience much more intense anxiety with uncertain conditions and risk of transmission. The severity of anxiety disorders, especially separation anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder, has increased during the pandemic period. Separation anxiety is the name given to the intense anxiety that a person experiences when separated from their caregiver. The mandatory isolation during the pandemic period and the fact that the child did not part with his caregiver fed this pathology. Remedial measures are also taken in this regard due to the lack of personal space in the home, the caregiver working from home or the absence of secondary caregivers.

could not be obtained. The intense stress experienced due to the pandemic in children who do not have separation anxiety has caused situations such as not being separated from their parents, which are not compatible with the level of development. In preschool children, some of the other behaviors that are not compatible with the developmental period are reluctance, difficulty concentrating on the game, bottle use, thumb sucking and toilet accidents. Behaviors such as a significant increase in fear and anxiety, having problems with siblings, restlessness, aggression, psychosomatic complaints, avoidance of fulfilling responsibilities, difficulty in focusing, sleep problems and social withdrawal can be observed in school-age children. In adolescents, on the other hand, reactions that can be observed due to anxiety and fear can be observed in addition to the behaviors exhibited at school age, as well as rebellion, risk-taking behaviors, and lack of concentration.

Generalized anxiety disorder is a state of extreme anxiety about certain events for most of the day. Children and adolescents who were prone or diagnosed with this pathology during the pandemic period were constantly worried about the fear of infection, worrying about their own health and the health of their loved ones, ways of transmitting the virus or people who were infected. The fact that it is a virus that is not yet known, its truly contagious effect is lethal, and the lack of clear plans for the treatment method has fed this pathology. Even individuals who are not prone to generalized anxiety disorder have had legitimate concerns about health in this process.

In addition to anxiety disorders, the anxiety and fear experienced during the isolation process triggered some other negative emotions. In addition to the fact that quarantine often causes negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, anger and disappointment, it has also caused a more risky process for children and adolescents who are being treated for various previously diagnosed mental problems. Their inability to manage their emotions also made them more susceptible to depression. In addition, it has been observed that children who had depression and anxiety before the epidemic experienced anxiety, acute stress and adjustment disorders due to the inability to tolerate stress with the news of death and illness around them.

Because it is an unexpected and sudden biological disaster, post-traumatic stress disorder and acute stress disorders can be seen in children and adolescents. Continuing the routine will be remedial at this point.

Cleaning-related behaviors of children and adolescents with obsessive compulsive disorder or who are genetically predisposed to this disorder have increased intensively. In accordance with the precautionary policies of the Ministry of Health, children are able to express their obsessive behavior.

rationalized and sustained. This has been something that feeds the pathology but protects them to some extent under biological disaster conditions.

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