Phases of psychological response in COVID-19: A preliminary heuristic




COVID-19, pandemic, psychological impact, phases, mental health response


Objective: To explore the putative phases of the psychological response to disaster: preimpact, impact, heroic, honeymoon, disillusionment, and recovery, and make recommendations for corresponding interventions.

Conclusions: Disasters such as the COVID-19 pandemic are often characterized by chaos and uncertainty. As a result, public health disaster planning and response represent formidable challenges. Although disasters can result from a wide array of hazards, regardless of the agent at work, they may follow a rather predictable trajectory of psychological phases. A heuristic of those phases can provide an opportunity for a more organized disaster mental health response and more efficient utilization of scarce resources.

Author Biographies

George S. Everly Jr, PhD

Adjunct Professor, Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland; Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland

Albert W. Wu, MD, MPH

Professor, Department of Health Policy and Management, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland; Department of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland

James B. Potash, MD, MPH

Professor and Director, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland; Department of Mental Health, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland


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How to Cite

Everly Jr, PhD, G. S., A. W. Wu, MD, MPH, and J. B. Potash, MD, MPH. “Phases of Psychological Response in COVID-19: A Preliminary Heuristic”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 16, no. 1, Jan. 2021, pp. 5-12, doi:10.5055/ajdm.2021.0381.