COVID-19 and Worsening Mental Health
By Devyanshi Gairola
The widespread outbreak and prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic have contributed to the significant worsening of pre-existing mental health conditions in a multitude of ways. Ever since the beginning of the unprecedented virus, there have been a plethora of disruptive alterations in our lifestyles. To begin with, the simplest of joys in life—going out and meeting your loved ones perhaps—are now potentially dangerous and pave the way for a substantial increase in infections. With human touch and contact now being forbidden to a great extent, there are now several essential social distancing measures. Although the aforementioned initiatives are indispensable, the lack of atypical social interaction can contribute to elevated levels of loneliness, thus giving a rise in the cases of relapsing from depression. There are many people who are now deprived of substantial coping strategies such as going to the gym, taking a walk in the park, socialising with friends and so on. Such activities which used to anchor people with a risk of depression are now diminished.
Adding to such factors, pharmacies are running out of anxiety medications and some medications one cannot get without renewed prescriptions. “Sitting with your thoughts” as one would call it has detrimental consequences for people who overthink and thus, amplify their fear and negative emotions. An effort to compensate for these negative emotions has led to abuse of antidepressants beyond a safe dose. Even though online counselling is one of the ways to manage mental illnesses, it excludes the principal face-to-face assurance as well as reading the body language. Moreover, recurring news of the virus and its rapidly escalating number of fatalities consequently lead to persistent stress, anxiety and worrying. As people live with the magnifying fear of death and the loss of their loved ones, it becomes increasingly difficult to cope, adjust and be productive. Conditions like psychosis which require special medical attention are at risk of worsening with factors like domestic abuse and relationship problems, financial stress, isolation and delayed medical services coming into play. With reduced motor activities, the closing of gyms and parks, along with complications with food stocks, COVID-19 has made it difficult for people with eating disorders to recover and have a healthy relationship with food. To be cooped up inside the house gives a foreboding fear of not being able to control how one moves and what they put inside their body. Fear of weight gain gives rise to inflexible behaviours. With no distancing from food at home as well as hoarding groceries in such a crisis, binge eating habits can resurface.
Fundamentally, it has now become a massive task to concentrate and complete tasks effectively during this turbulent period. In addition, witnessing the governments’ inefficiency to formulate, implement and execute long-term plans during these trying times only wreaks more havoc in the mind. Furthermore, being predominantly surrounded by certain civilians’ inherent ignorance and carelessness regarding the outbreak and its vital precautionary measures aggravates anxiety as well.
Cumulatively, the two elements lead to further deterioration of mental illnesses. When all of the aforesaid factors come into play, they can lead to psychological impacts such as restlessness, fatigue and sleep problems. For people with both anxiety and depression, the amalgamation of these two may worsen their health and leave them in a panicked condition. With vaccines yet to be properly developed and cases rising by the minute, life seems rather dismal, thus, making it extremely hard to find pleasure, take interests and get rid of the inner voice that warns of impending doom. Overall, considering the fact that these are unfathomably difficult times, it is a troubling task to stay calm in the face of adversity and tackle these obstacles whilst mental illnesses are exacerbated.
But stay calm we must. The strength of the human spirit is tested over and over again. As the pandemic and the lockdown persist, one must learn to let go of old coping practices and adopt new ones. We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to try our best, despite these circumstances, in dealing with the storm of emotions many of us are feeling and continue to make the best of our situation. While it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the horde of people online who promote being productive to the maximum by learning new skills or joining online courses, it is important to establish one’s own pace. Work and education are important facets of life in a fast-paced society, even if that society has come to a staggering halt. In an effort to keep feelings of loneliness and hopelessness at bay, especially for those who are faring the lockdown alone, one must make use of available technology and enjoy the virtual presence of their loved ones as well as take full advantage of the online services of mental health practitioners. Hope is a strong force and one must hope that normalcy will be re-established in due time.