The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downturn have negatively affected many people’s mental health, especially in people already suffering from depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders. In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll, nearly half of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the virus. As the pandemic wears on, it is likely the mental health burden will increase from attempts to slow the spread of the virus. Mediating the spread of the virus by social distancing, business and school closures, and shelter-in-place orders, creates conditions for mental health disorders from isolation and potential financial distress. Though necessary to prevent overwhelming existing healthcare resources and loss of life due to COVID-19, these public health measures can create or make worse symptoms of depression, anxiety, and/or substance abuse, such as isolation and job loss. In the U.S. alone, one in five people already experience mental illness each year according to NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the country’s largest grassroots mental health organization.
Decades of research that study protective factors against both physical and mental illness teach us that how well we cope with stress can reduce our chances of developing chronic illness, such as cancer, heart disease and, diabetes, and reduce our changes of being overwhelmed by our emotions. People who are most likely to recover emotionally, mentally, and physically are those individuals who can adapt to unexpected and unwelcomed events in our lives.
Healthcare professionals are seeing a noticeable uptick in mental health issues due to the COVID pandemic. Even those healthy people who are not part of the high risk groups for COVID are starting to show signs and symptoms of indicative of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can occur to anyone. You do not have to be a frontline fighter in the E/R, a EMS technician, or pizza delivery person to experience trauma from COVID19. Yet, despite the increase in PTSD symptoms, people with these symptoms are reluctant to seek support and treatment for this issue. Barriers to seeking support from a mental health professional include myths that surround what it means to seek counseling when life becomes overwhelming.
Working with a mental health professional can help build resilience to stressors so that you are less affected by circumstances beyond your control. Some of the signs of PTSD include:
- Anxious, uneasy
- Angry, easily frustrated
- Changes to your sleep–both in amount and quality
- Lack of interest or motivation
- “Flashforwards” – imaging the worst possible outcome
- Thoughts about what will happen to you
- Confused, inability to focus
- Feeling helpless, increasing hopelessness
This video provides some information about how we are all experiencing trauma with the pandemic. If you would like to learn more, click here and schedule a free phone consult. If you are asking yourself the question, “do I need mental health support right now?” The very fact that you ask the question indicates that you do.