Long-Term Mental Health Effects of Coronavirus

Long-Term Mental Health Effects of Coronavirus

While the coronavirus may be taking a physical toll on many, it is not just our bodies that are struggling. COVID-19 has also been impacting people’s mental health. Whether it is anxiety, stress, depression, loneliness, boredom, or grief, the pandemic has become a rollercoaster ride of emotions for many.

If you are struggling to manage your mental health during coronavirus, you are not alone. With such an unprecedented event, many people are feeling overwhelmed. Because of social isolation, not everyone is getting the support they are used to and virtual help has become the only option. New York City has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic both physically and mentally. In order the help the citizens cope with their mental health, Cuomo announced the launch of a statewide COVID-19 emotional support hotline. While social isolation and quarantine may lead to some immediate mental health concerns, many believe that there will be several problematic long-term mental health effects of COVID-19.

The Possible Lasting Mental Health Effects of COVID-19

Like many physical disorders, mental health isn’t something that can be cured in an instant. It usually takes time to see real improvements, especially if the distress that led to these problems was long-lasting or reoccurring. Because COVID-19 has already led to dramatic changes in people’s lifestyles and is expected to continue to do so, many people anticipate negative long-term effects on mental health from the coronavirus.

The coronavirus pandemic could leave lasting scars for people around the world. Research has shown the devastating effects that major traumatic events like the pandemic can have on a collection of people. Natural disasters, for example, have been shown time and time again to have negative psychological impacts on those affected by them, including prolonged periods of uncontrollable stress, grief, loss, and anxiety after the events were over.1 Studies surrounding SARS, another coronavirus outbreak, showed that almost half of survivors suffered from PTSD and as much as 25% of patients still met PTSD criteria 30 months later.2 It isn’t just those infected with SARS who experienced a negative mental health impact, either. Those who were quarantined, working in high-risk locations, or were close to those who contracted the virus were 2 to 3 times more likely to experience more severe post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms than those with limited exposure.3

Regardless of the exact event, trauma can lead to lasting mental health issues and many people require professional trauma treatment programs to see real improvements in their symptoms. Trauma can also affect people differently and some people may not experience symptoms of PTSD until long after the event is over. Because the coronavirus has been so traumatic for many people, it is likely that we will see an increase in people suffering from PTSD-related symptoms in the coming months or even years, especially those who had more severe exposure.

Not only is this coronavirus itself traumatic, but also the lack of human contact from social isolation could be negatively impacting our mental health. Humans are social creatures and prolonged time without this contact can actually hurt our mental health. A review of studies on quarantine found that it can have negative and possible long-lasting psychological effects such as PTSD, confusion, and anger. The longer the quarantine, the greater the psychological impact as well.4 Another study found that loneliness and social isolation are twice as harmful for our physical and mental health as obesity.5 Although many of us are quarantining with close friends and family, not everyone is as lucky. The long-term mental health effects of coronavirus for people quarantining alone could include these problems.

For some people, the coronavirus pandemic could exacerbate their mental health problems. A study on anxiety explains that many patients with an anxiety disorder will mark the onset of the disorder in their life as an extremely stressful event or a time of persistent stress in their life. Times of high stress may also lead to relapse in chronic anxiety conditions.6 Because of financial uncertainty, fear of getting sick, dealing with a sick loved one, or trying to work and take care of the children, many people would consider quarantine a time of high-stress. People who may have always struggled with mild anxiety may find their anxiety getting worse and unmanageable. If this is the case for you or a loved one, an anxiety treatment center may be a good option.

Not only will many people experience more mental health issues because of coronavirus, but for some, these mental health problems may lead to a drug or alcohol addiction. One study found that people with PTSD were 2 to 4 times more likely to qualify for a substance use disorder than the general population.7 Many people struggling to cope with their mental health will turn to drugs or alcohol for immediate relief. Unfortunately, these substances usually make problems worse in the long-run and may also lead to dependence when this coping becomes habitual. These individuals should seek out the assistance of dual diagnosis treatment to help them through both problems at the same time.

 

If you believe you or a loved one is experiencing the long-term mental health effects of coronavirus, do not wait to get help. You do not need to live with a mental health disorder; there is hope. To learn more about our program at Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches, call us today at 888-280-4763.

 

Sources:

  1. NCBI – Disaster and its impact on mental health: A narrative review
  2. Science Direct – Risk factors for chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in SARS survivors
  3. NCBI – The Psychological Impact of the SARS Epidemic on Hospital Employees in China: Exposure, Risk Perception, and Altruistic Acceptance of Risk
  4. The Lancet – The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence
  5. SAGE Journals – Loneliness and Social Isolation as Risk Factors for Mortality: A Meta-Analytic Review
  6. NCBI – Current Diagnosis and Treatment of Anxiety Disorders
  7. NCBI – Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders: Advances in Assessment and Treatment

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