COVID-19 & Mental Health Concerns
COVID-19 also known as the coronavirus pandemic, is an ongoing health concern as it is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS‑CoV‑2). The outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, China, in early December 2019. On March 11th, 2020.The World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 pandemic in response to the number of positive cases and deaths related to virus.
For many, The COVID-19 pandemic has likely brought many changes to how we live our life, how to interact or not interact with others, altered our daily routines, created financial stressors, uncertainty about the future, how long the pandemic will last, and fear of getting sick. The underlying theme of this pandemic is fear, leading people to stockpile toiletries, disinfectants, and food. Stockpiling items creates a shortage for others, especially those that are impaired physically, mentally, or financially struggling as the prices for everyday items increase.
Although, the primary focus of the disease has been related to the decline of physical health, respiratory issues, and death the pandemic has caused an escalation in mental health related issues. The recent reported outbreaks and fatalities of the COVID-19 disease has shown to have significant impact on individuals and families previously struggling with mental illness. In response to the virus and the request to social distance many individuals with mental health conditions are feeling more isolated and alone than ever before.
Prior to the pandemic many individuals that struggled with depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, etc., experienced heightened challenges related to establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships. Environmental factors like the COVID-19 pandemic may increase the risk of anxiety disorders including early childhood trauma and life experiences. Unfortunately, some persons that were in therapy to treat pre-existing mental health conditions experienced a setback in both mental and emotional health. Notably, there may be genetic components to anxiety disorders, however, as the pandemic continues anxiety has increased, substance abuse is more likely, depression has intensified, and isolation looms.
The neuroanatomy of fear and anxiety many involve many regions of the brain, including the amygdala, ventromedial hypothalamus, hippocampus, nucleus accumbens, BNST (bed nucleus of stria terminalis), the inframlimic cortex (among various parts of the prefrontal cortex), insular cortex, and other brain regions. The amygdala is an almond-shaped set of neurons in the medial temporal lobe, is part of the limbic system. It is the neural network that mediates emotional learning and behavior. It plays a significant role in mediating fear, anxiety, and other emotions.
For many people, COVID-19 not only comes with negative physical implications, but anxiety, depression, and uncertainty. Common symptoms of anxiety include challenges and interference in “normal” sleeping pattern, difficulty with cognition and memory, changes or interferences with “normal” eating habits, restlessness, panic related responses, etc. Fortunately, anxiety and depressive can be effectively treated with proper mental health services.
If you are concerned about a loved one who struggles with mental health conditions and the impact of COVID-19 on their mental health you should create a safety plan. The plan should include names of mental health providers that works with your loved one, a list of his or her prescription medications, record of past hospitalizations, suicidal/homicidal ideations, and any significant changes in mood and behavior. It is important to stay connected to your loved ones during this time as decompensation and isolation are morel likely to occur in response to social distancing efforts. You can stay connected by making periodic telephone calls to your loved ones, video chatting, texting, etc.
If you are concerned that someone you love maybe experiencing a physical or mental health crisis you should contact the police for a wellness check. It doesn’t cost a thing to err on the side of caution but could save a life.