The COVID-19 pandemic has caused mental strain around the globe, resulting in anxiety, depression, and fatigue. For those already struggling with mental health, dealing with the ongoing pandemic can be anything but easy. Despite all the uncertainty and stress the pandemic has brought to our lives, this article will help you cope with COVID-19 depression and its counterparts.
Managing Depression During the COVID-19 Pandemic
According to research by GoodRx, prescriptions fills for anxiety and depression drugs reached an all-time peak last year. Across the board, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted mental health worldwide, especially for individuals with preexisting conditions like depression and anxiety.
Depression and COVID-19 in the U.S.
The spread of COVID-19 throughout the nation has resulted in morbidity and mortality. It has also had disastrous consequences on the mental health of the country. Further, the pandemic has exacerbated existing social inequities and injustices.
A large share of the U.S. population is battling depression, anxiety, or a combination of both. Over 60% of the respondents surveyed by GoodRx, who already struggled with mental health, reported worsening symptoms since the beginning of the pandemic. On top of that, more than 18% of the individuals reported missing a prescription due to lockdown restrictions or cost. After all, the COVID-19 outbreak has impacted both our lives and livelihoods.
According to the State of Mental Health in America report, over 47 million people in our country struggle with mental illness. The five states with the most significant adult mental illness prevalence are Utah, Idaho, West Virginia, Indiana, and Oregon. In contrast, the five ones with a mentally healthier population are New Jersey, Texas, Maryland, Virginia, and Florida.
Over 26 million individuals experiencing a mental illness are currently going untreated in America. Sadly, a quarter of all adults with a mental condition couldn’t receive the treatment they needed in 2020. That’s a percentage that hasn’t declined in the last decade.
How does COVID-19 Affect Mental Health?
From isolation to job loss, to the fear of contracting a deadly disease, the coronavirus pandemic continues to play a front-and-center role in our day to day. For those struggling with depression and anxiety, the COVID-19 is taking a tremendous toll.
A JAMA Network Open’s study has linked the COVID-19 pandemic to an increase in depressive symptoms. The survey revealed that the symptom prevalence was more than 3-fold higher during the pandemic than before. Low income, less than $50,000 in savings, and exposure to other stressors were associated with greater risks of depression.
The GoodRx team surveyed over 1,000 individuals previously diagnosed with depression and anxiety on the coronavirus pandemic, and the results were jarring. Many experienced worsening symptoms such as lack of motivation, panic attacks, or in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts. In addition, some reported limited access to mental health treatment and found themselves incapable of managing their depressive symptoms.
Are People More Depressed During the COVID-19 Outbreak?
Fills for anxiety and depression medications were increasing since 2016 and reached a peak when the COVID-19 pandemic began in the country. As it rages on through the winter, mental health is likely to suffer even more in the US. The coronavirus outbreak has resulted in a deepening of many symptoms.
The most commonly reported symptoms were lack of motivation to exercise or keep a healthy eating routine. However, 40% of respondents also admitted to having experienced an increase of panic attacks. After all, many people are afraid of the virus and its consequences.
Almost 40% of the surveyed individuals reported trouble sleeping, while 29% struggled to focus at work since COVID-19 disrupted their lives. When it comes to suicidal thoughts, 15% of respondents reported having experienced them. That’s very worrying as the pandemic is likely to stay in the country for a while. On top of that, 7% admitted to using alcohol or recreational drugs in response to depression and anxiety symptoms.
Is Insomnia a Symptom of COVID-19?
Insomnia isn’t a symptom of the virus but a consequence. COVID-19 has ushered the world into uncharted waters, and it’s creating a host of new challenges even for those who previously had no sleeping issues.
Sleep is a critical biological process, and as we juggle the physical, mental and emotional demands of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever. Besides depression, studies have revealed that a lack of sleep is also linked to other mental health disorders such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, or bipolar disorder.
Coping with Fatigue During COVID-19
If you are feeling tired in the middle of a pandemic, it’s natural to wonder if your exhaustion could be caused by the virus. However, while fatigue is considered an official symptom of COVID-19, feeling more tired than usual does not automatically mean that you have been infected with the virus. Fatigue is also linked to depression.
A World Health Organisation report published in February revealed that fatigue was the third most common symptom of the virus, with nearly 40% of infected people reporting it. The other two most common symptoms were fever and dry cough.
People who happen to experience COVID-19 fatigue report other symptoms as well, such as the sore throat or muscle aches. The best thing you can do if you think you might have contracted coronavirus is to call your doctor and go for a test.
If your fatigue is the result of COVID-19, there won’t be much you will be able to do but rest until you feel better. A study by medRxiv revealed that more than 50% of the patients that tested positive had to deal with persistent fatigue until weeks after they were diagnosed. If, on the other hand, the exhaustion you are experiencing is caused by depression, you are in luck, because medication and therapy can help you mitigate its effects.
Tips to overcome COVID-19 Fatigue
Here are some tips that can help you cope better with fatigue:
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
- Eat healthy food in small amounts at regular intervals
- Take vitamins B, C, D and zinc, and paracetamol if needed
- Do not perform unnecessary tasks
- Consider placing a seat in the shower
- Use relaxation techniques to help you rest
Most people who contract the virus recover within two weeks. However, there is a subset of patients for whom that is not the case. One of the most prevalent long-term symptoms is excessive fatigue or exhaustion, together with unexplained muscle and joint pain, sore throat, headaches, and poor concentration.
The trigger to post-coronavirus fatigue seems to be a reaction to the virus itself. When people are fighting off a virus, the immune system releases chemicals that promote inflammation and may cause tiredness, aches, and pains.
Although the fatigue is expected to disappear once the virus has been dealt with, levels of chemicals fail to return to normal in some cases. That can cause an ongoing feeling of tiredness. While there are no specific treatments for COVID-19 fatigue, taking over-the-counter pain relievers can help ease any lingering pain.
However, doctors warn that although resting throughout the day is important, a lack of physical activity can make sufferers feel more tired. For many conditions, such as depression, exercise can help battle fatigue.
As hard as this emotional fatigue has been, it has fallen hard on people who are suffering from mental illness. Luckily, virtual psychotherapy and doctor consultations have now been made widely available, giving mental health professionals a much-needed solution for keeping their patients on track and cared for.
How to Emotionally Deal with COVID-19
Taking care of your emotions will help you think clearly and protect yourself and your loved ones. If the pandemic is leaving you in distress, try to stay away from the news and social media. On top of that, you must make time to unwind and practice exercise or engage in the activities you enjoy. In addition, be sure to get enough sleep and eat properly. If you have been feeling sad or depressive for more than two weeks, get hold of a doctor or therapist as soon as possible.
COVID-19 Depression: Triggering Factors
Trends reflect worsening symptoms across every demographic group since the pandemic started, regardless of age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or marital status. Specific experiences and situations, such as employment status, income level, or lockdown measures have aggravated the symptoms of anxiety and depression. That’s the case both in the U.S. and worldwide.
According to the survey by GoodRx, 57% of employed respondents reported feeling worse or much worse since the COVID-19 outbreak started. At the same time, nearly 70% of the unemployed surveyed individuals reported symptoms to be worse. Not having a job impacts mental health negatively, causing anxiety, stress, and feelings of pessimism. Further, having a reduced income can make access to treatment for depression more difficult.
Respondents reporting an annual household greater than $200,000 were less affected by the pandemic than those who had a more limited income. Only 34% of individuals with the highest income reported that their symptoms were worse. More than 60% of the individuals belonging to the lower-income groups reported a negative impact on their depressive symptoms.
It’s no surprise that one of the factors most associated with worsening anxiety and depression symptoms is stay-at-home regulations. People who suffer from mental illness often struggle with loneliness. Not being able to spend time with friends and family due to coronavirus can exacerbate their feelings of sadness.
Being required to quarantine can result in isolation from support systems, such as therapy. According to the survey, more than 70% of those who quarantined for more than one week reported their depression and anxiety symptoms had worsened.
Experiences During COVID-19
People living with depression and anxiety are especially vulnerable to changes that put their stability at risk. Nearly 20% of the surveyed individuals reported either job or income loss, while 47% of the respondents experienced reduced contact with friends and family.
In addition, 12% of the surveyed people lost a loved one to the virus. On top of that, 8% tested positive for COVID-19. Turns out that the more negative pandemic-related experiences a person had, the more likely they were to report worse anxiety and depression symptoms.
Access to Treatment for COVID-19 Depression
The pandemic has also resulted in disruptions to mental health care. COVID-19 may make filling prescriptions more challenging. People who rely on medication may resort to unauthorized pills, drugs, or alcohol to alleviate their symptoms.
24% of the surveyed individuals were already on medication for depression or anxiety. They reported that they had altered the strength, quantity, and type of existing medication due to the pandemic.
A big challenge the surveyed individuals reported noted is issues with doctor appointments that prevented them from getting the required medication. Participants reported delays in receiving or picking up medication and missing or skipping doses for rationing purposes.
In addition, some had to change the pharmacy where they pick up their prescription. Sadly, 20% of the respondents in treatment for anxiety and/or depression reported being unable to afford their prescription.
According to Mental Health America, the number of people seeking help with depression and anxiety has skyrocketed since the pandemic started. From January 2020 to September 2020, there was a 93% percent increase over the 2019 total number of anxiety screens. When it comes to depression, the screening amount increased by 62%.
More than 10% of Americans with a mental disorder are uninsured, a number that increased for the first time since the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). If left untreated, though, depression can lead to suicide.
Suicide Rates During COVID-19
Since the COVID-19 outbreak started spreading rapidly among the population, over 178,000 people have reported suicidal thoughts, says Mental Health America. According to their findings, 37% of individuals admitted suicidal ideation more than half or nearly every day in September 2020.
More people are now reporting thoughts of self-harm than have been ever recorded in the MHA Screening program since its launch in 2014. According to the survey, the percentage of adults reporting serious thoughts of suicide is above 4%.
However, suicidal rates are highest among young individuals, especially LGBTQ+ youth. Compared to 2019, the proportion of youngsters aged 11-17 who accessed mental health screening increased by 9%.
Unfortunately, 60% of youth with depression don’t receive any mental health treatment in the US. Even among those who suffer from severe depression and receive some treatment, only 27% receive consistent care.