Coronavirus outbreak may lead to rise in paranoia, depression and other mental health disorders, suggest studies
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in April 2020 indicated that public health emergencies of the scale of the novel coronavirus outbreak can evoke a number of emotional reactions and unhealthy behaviours in both individuals and communities
Let’s establish a fact at the very outset: the COVID-19 pandemic is estimated to have long-term effects on the global economy, politics, society, culture and everyone’s way of life, and such effects will have an immense impact on the mental health of almost everyone living through these times. There’s no escaping this fact, especially now that this highly contagious viral infection has raged through the globe for well over six months while infecting over seven million people, claiming the lives of lakhs and making billions of others feel restricted and insecure.
COVID-19 and mental health
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in April 2020 indicated that public health emergencies of this magnitude can evoke a number of emotional reactions and unhealthy behaviours in both individuals and communities. But at the same time, it can also give rise to resilience and help people find new strengths during a crisis. However, many people are more susceptible to the psychological effects of a pandemic than others.
The following are some of the most common mental health disorders that are showing up in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and should be taken very seriously because of the long-reaching effects they can have on overall health and everyday functioning of people. If you feel the symptoms of any of these showing up, reach out to a mental health professional immediately.
A study published in eLife on 9 June, 2020, explains how paranoia can arise in individuals due to the unexpected uncertainty associated with a global pandemic. The study, conducted by Yale University researchers, indicates that paranoia can be triggered by general uncertainty about the future and not a specific one.
You might have already observed increased stress and anxiety levels regarding the disease and its effects on your loved ones. But when this anxiety becomes chronic during a prolonged pandemic, it can lead to anxiety disorders. A study published in Psychiatry Research in June 2020 analysed the mental health of 7,236 subjects in China between December 2019 and April 2020, and found that generalised anxiety disorder (GAD) and depressive symptoms were on the rise among young people and healthcare workers.
Going by results of the same study, symptoms of depression seem to be on the rise among certain sections of people. Another study in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity in May 2020 underlines how insomnia, anxiety and depression are particularly showing up among healthcare workers. Social isolation, cabin fever and restricted mobility is also leading to depressive symptoms in most individuals living under quarantine or lockdowns.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
A study published in Psychological Medicine in April 2020 estimated, on the basis of previous natural disasters and epidemics, that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is likely to rise in the wake of the pandemic. Quarantines, loss of lives, stigma associated with the infected, limited resources for healthcare, etc, can lead to PTSD, especially in healthcare and frontline workers.
For more information, read our article on How to protect your mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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