The Psychological Impact of COVID-19

Maya Tuckman, journalist

While the health, economic, and social impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic appear to be the most urgent issues in current global society, mental health risks during quarantine isolation, loss of loved ones, and other financial, social, and familial struggles exemplify a rising personal conflict. Stress and isolation evoke unusually harmful psychological consequences that, since the start of lockdown, have progressively exacerbated the condition of nationwide mental health and intensified negative circumstances for those already struggling with mental illnesses like anxiety, addiction, depression, and more.

Individuals have all reacted to the crisis in different ways, whether in response to health concerns, uncertainty for the future, sensorial or social deprivation, separation from loved ones, the death of a loved one, or other personal struggles they may have experienced as a result of the virus. Generally, however recent studies have attested to a trend in the rise of stress, depression, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional exhaustion, and general fear, anger, anxiety, and confusion among surveyed and examined subjects. In addition, suicide rates and drug overdose deaths have significantly increased.

Healthcare workers, known as HCWs, are particularly susceptible to mental symptoms because of their proximity to COVID patients and the pressure of medical responsibility. Post-traumatic stress disorder, burnout syndrome, depersonalization, and physical and emotional exhaustion are all common among HCWs, and even more prevalent across hospitals with overworked HCWs, who have exhibited serious signs of secondary traumatic stress disorder. According to a recent survey involving 1,257 HCWs working in wards with COVID patients, 50% reported mild to severe depression, 44.6% reported anxiety or anxious symptoms, 34% reported insomnia, and 71.5% reported distress.

Furthermore, collective social suffering emerges as a result of global circumstances and common psychological responses. With this shift in mental health dynamics comes a change in the social setting. The way humans interact with others is evolving, including the way people show empathy. Due to forced social withdrawal, it has become inherently more essential that people learn how to adapt to digital environments and begin taking advantage of them to reach out to others. Online psychotherapy resources may also offer a degree of relief to those suffering from mental distress during these trying times. For many, the technological privileges of modern society will become a crucial asset in facilitating all aspects of everyday life, and will play a significant role in maintaining social and familial connections during a pandemic, and perhaps beyond.

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