A new treatment for traumatised healthcare workers
TNO, Kindt Clinics and SENSIKS established a new partnership for the implementation of a short-term treatment strategy for traumatised healthcare workers during COVID-19.
More than ever, healthcare professionals are facing unprecedented stressors. Researchers are warning that the coronavirus pandemic could inflict posttraumatic stress disorder in frontline healthcare workers on a global scale. Even though some effective strategies for the treatment of PTSD exist, memory for traumatic experiences is strong and resistant to change. As a result, a substantial proportion of patients experience a relapse even after initial treatment success. Partial or full reappearance of fear may be explained by intact memories that resurface. Once a fear memory has been established, it is held to be forever.
Yet there is reason for optimism: recent years have witnessed rapidly emerging evidence for the plasticity of fear memories. Upon retrieval a memory may be rendered labile and vulnerable to the disruptive effects of amnestic agents: this process is referred to as “disrupting reconsolidation” and may point to a novel therapeutic strategy for the permanent reduction of fear in patients suffering from anxiety disorders and PTSD. Abundant evidence now indicates that fear memories are susceptible to disruption by β-adrenergic blockade during reconsolidation. Both human studies and clinical practice indeed show that the administration of the β-adrenergic receptor antagonist propranolol upon retrieval decreases conditioned fear among healthy individuals, pathological fear in phobic patients, and even posttraumatic stress symptoms in trauma victims.
Here the aim is to adapt and implement this novel treatment strategy – that yields long-term cure within a single treatment-session – for traumatised healthcare professionals during COVID-19.