Similarities Between Covid-19 Symptoms and Psychiatric Disorders Can Exacerbate Existing Mental Health Issues

GlobalData Healthcare 1 April 2020 (Last Updated April 1st, 2020 15:55)

Similarities Between Covid-19 Symptoms and Psychiatric Disorders Can Exacerbate Existing Mental Health Issues

Outbreaks of Covid-19 have affected more than 150 countries and have killed more than 42,000 people worldwide. With an ever-increasing death toll and an infection rate that is higher than that of the average influenza virus, Covid-19 has been a source of stress many people. This widespread worrying is caused by a variety of factors including the disease itself, financial concerns, and depression from being isolated for an indeterminable length of time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), symptoms of Covid-19 include shortness of breath, fever, headaches, sore throat, and cough, and 80% of Covid-19 cases present with mild symptoms. However, it is notable that anxiety and stress can also cause headaches, labored breathing, increased heart rate, and a sore throat.

A common stressor for anxious people is uncertainty. The unpredictable nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, along with misinformation promoted by various parties, can compound feelings of confusion, exacerbating mental illnesses such as generalized anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Furthermore, obsessive-compulsive disorder may be worsened by a fear of infection, increasing the tendency to focus on hand washing and optimizing hygiene practices.

Many people benefit from feeling grounded and stable, which can be derived from sources such as vocational activities, academia, and leisure pursuits. Mental disorders are commonly treated with assistive psychotherapy, but mental health practitioners may be forced to cancel appointments or shift to remote appointments via video conferencing or phone calls due to the pandemic. Some patients benefit from physically interacting with their therapist and may find the switch to virtual communication unsettling.

This shift also assumes that patients are able to access computer software, and will still be focused on attending appointments during a time when psychotherapy may no longer be a priority. This is likely to lead to mental decline and increase the number of people who receive pharmacotherapy for psychiatric conditions.

Although the number of people who have died due to Covid-19 is increasing, funerals continue to be suspended in countries such as Italy. Travel restrictions, becoming isolated from family and friends, and businesses closures may lead to feelings of grief, disappointment, and hopelessness, which could take years to recover from.

An integral part of rebuilding people’s mental fortitude will be to support them through the challenges of social distancing, quarantine, isolation, and grief. It is also important that financial concerns are addressed, and physiotherapy is provided where it is necessary. The effects of the pandemic are expected to be long-lasting. It will require multiple parties such as governmental bodies, academic institutions, and scientists, to work together to re-establish a sense of normalcy, which will help people in their recovery from the most devastating pandemic of the century so far.