Doctors told you that your infection with the COVID-19 virus was gone months ago. However, even if you no longer have difficulty breathing and your oxygen levels have returned to normal, something is wrong. Along with the constant headaches, you find yourself struggling with seemingly easy tasks. The fatigue you feel makes going from bed to kitchen an accomplishment. But most disturbing for you is a feeling of dread, a nervousness so severe that you can feel your heart pounding. Constant worries now prevent you from sleeping at night.
What are the effects of COVID-19 on mental health?
We are learning more about the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the brain. Data from Wuhan suggest the virus could invade the brain, with more than a third of infected patients developing neurological symptoms. In addition to the brain infection, we know that the pandemic has led to worsening mental health outcomes due to the psychological toll of isolation, loneliness, unemployment, financial stressors and loss of life. loved ones. the prescription of antidepressants increased, domestic violence increased, and suicidal thoughts are on the rise, especially among young adults.
Does COVID-19 Infection Increase the Risk of Psychiatric Disorders?
Until recently, mental health outcomes following COVID-19 infection were not known. A new study electronic health records of 69 million people found that COVID-19 infection increased the risk of developing a psychiatric disorder, dementia or insomnia. Additionally, people with psychiatric disorders were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19, which may be related to behavioral factors, lifestyle factors (such as smoking), inflammation or psychiatric medication. This is the first large study to show that infection with COVID-19 does indeed increase the risk of developing psychiatric disorders.
The long-term mental health effects of COVID-19 infection remain to be seen. Following the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, it was discovered that the offspring of mothers infected during pregnancy had higher rates schizophrenia. It is believed that viral infection during pregnancy may be a risk factor for developing mental illness related to the body’s immune response. If infection with COVID-19 even slightly increases the risk of mental illness in offspring, it could have a big effect at the population level, given the high number of infections around the world.
Do you have a psychiatric disorder as a result of COVID-19?
You may feel tired, stressed, or sad due to the effects of COVID-19 on your body or due to life circumstances. However, even if you test for depression or positive anxiety when you visit your doctor, remember that the screening tools are not diagnostic. People with physical symptoms of COVID-19 infection often screen positive for depression because symptoms of infection often overlap with symptoms of depression. For example, poor sleep, reduced concentration, and reduced appetite may be due to a medical illness rather than depression.
In order for a doctor to make an accurate diagnosis, you may need to wait some time to watch for the development of symptoms. Although antidepressants are often prescribed for mood and anxiety disorders, keep in mind that mild to moderate symptoms often go away on their own when living conditions improve. If this is your first episode of depression or your first experience of anxiety, you may not need specialized treatment if your symptoms are mild. If you start taking any medication, be sure to review your treatment regularly with your doctor and make any necessary changes.
What steps can you take to minimize the mental health consequences of COVID-19 infection?
- To get vaccinated. This is especially important for people with psychiatric disorders, which are independent risk factors for COVID-19 infection.
- Continue to wear a mask and move away physically. However, aim to maintain social connections.
- Use the resources. Online therapies, workbooks and mobile apps (COVID Coach, CBT-I Trainer) may provide benefits without risking exposure during treatment.
- Advocate for others. Long haul COVID-19 may not be able to make a case for workplace changes, life insurance, or mental health coverage, especially if they are suffering from fatigue and brain fog.
- Get some physical activity. in addition to being as effective as drugs on mood and anxiety, physical activity also contributes to memory and heart health.
- Enjoy relaxing rituals. When the world seems out of control, try to establish a ritual. Having control over even part of your day can help you feel grounded.
- Be careful with sleeping pills and medication as needed. Short-term use can quickly turn into long-term use, leading to drug tolerance, addiction, and rebound anxiety.
- Limit your consumption of alcohol and cannabis. Prolonged stress from caring for sick loved ones, unemployment, increased time spent at home, and relationship stressors can lead to increased and problematic substance use.
- Watch out for caffeine. If post-COVID fatigue is severe, discuss other options with your doctor, as too much caffeine can exacerbate anxiety and sleep problems.
- Register and ask how you can help your loved ones, friends, colleagues and neighbors. It is often much easier to refuse help than to ask for help. If someone is having suicidal thoughts in private, a simple recording call or kind gesture can save lives. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255) is available to anyone in severe distress.