During the COVID-19 pandemic, the mental state of people undergoes changes and, unfortunately, not for the better, that is, the psyche changes after the coronavirus. And this applies not only to those who were sick and sick, but to all people in general, since the covid greatly distorted everyday life, which we all especially felt during the lockdown period. In addition to fear for yourself and your family, various changes in work, sometimes even her loss, for a long time we could not afford to communicate as before, as well as the usual entertainment – visit a cafe, go to a club with friends, visit cinemas to watch a favorite and spectacular movie, go shopping, etc. It is difficult to see faces acquaintances and passers-by in masks, completely hiding warm human smiles. All of the above affects our psyche not in the best way. Often people are worried about the feeling of anxiety and fear, panic attacks, annoying obsessive thoughts, bad mood, sleep disturbances. Sometimes there is increased irritability, and there are aggressive reactions to the closest people, as more and more time is passed to communicate in the same space of common housing. We do not understand when all these inconveniences and restrictions will end, and to what extent the economic, social and other aspects of our lives will change after the COVID-19 pandemic. How to help yourself and your family, to maintain mental health during the coronavirus – we will figure it out in this article.
The impact of coronavirus on the human psyche
Coronavirus negatively affects the human psyche.
The works of American, Brazilian, Italian researchers confirm that the SARS-CoV-2 virus has an affinity for the central nervous system (CNS) no less than for the respiratory system, that is, it is neurotropic . Scientists have discovered remnants of the virus in brain tissue while conducting research on those who died from Covid-19.
The coronavirus enters the brain not only with blood, but also through the olfactory receptors in the superior turbinate. The capacity of the blood-brain barrier increases and thus the risk of mental disorders increases.
- Coronavirus can affect parts of the brain – the cerebellum, limbic system, hypothalamus, etc. The balance of the sympathetic (its activity increases) and parasympathetic systems are disturbed. The pulse may increase, anxiety rises, sleep is disturbed, intestinal motility can be activated, etc.
- The SARS-CoV-2 virus is similar to astrocytes , the number of which is predominant in the central nervous system. It is the brain that does not define it as a foreign substance. Astrocytes are very important in the creation and storage of information and long-term memory. Attention is deteriorating, and this also leads to the fact that the perception and memorization of important information deteriorates.
- Impaired cognitive functioning can also occur in connection with a decrease in oxygen supply to the brain (hypoxia occurs).
- Coronavirus infection can itself damage nerve fibers – so-called polyneuropathy occurs.
- The coronavirus can disrupt the neuroimmune cells that provide the brain with energy and are responsible for processing inflammation signals in the body. During illness and inflammation, the brain’s immune cells are activated and change the way they communicate with neurons. Some cells, in order to neutralize pathogens, simultaneously destroy the neural connections necessary for memory. The virus can disrupt the neuroimmune cells that energize the brain and even lead to dementia in the long term. Immunity, instead of fighting the virus, affects the human central nervous system.
- SARS-CoV-2 can damage the structure of the brain – there are a large number of clusters of nerve cells that ensure entry into the sleep stage or, conversely, wakefulness. The harder a person suffers from a coronavirus infection, the worse he sleeps. The symptoms of insomnia are largely female-related.
- Central brain functions can be damaged due to the toxic effects of the virus. This can even lead to toxic cerebral edema, which suggests that the SARS-CoV-2 virus is neurotoxic .
- The coronavirus damages not only neurons, but also microglia . In this case, atrophy of some parts of the brain may even occur, and this may lead to the development of dementia (dementia).
- The SARS-CoV-2 virus reduces the number of synapses due to damage. Through them, neurons in the brain contact and nerve pathways pass.
Additional factors influencing the coronavirus pandemic on the psyche
To date, mental disorders during coronavirus infection occur not only in connection with the damage to the brain by the SARS-CoV-2 virus during illness and in the postcoid period, but also as a consequence of distress against the background of negative social factors, such as
- fear of getting sick, dying and transmitting the infection to your family,
- anxiety about the disease of covid already ill loved ones and relatives and their death (in this case, the frequency of anxiety and depression increases by 2 times),
- restrictions on contacts and movement (isolation, lockdown)
- prolonged stay of family members in a confined space,
- economic hardship (job loss, loss of income),
- informational negative (media, etc.), etc.
At the same time, protective factors have diminished. These are factors such as
- social connections,
- employment and participation in education,
- access to exercise,
- free daily routine,
- the ability to travel,
- access to healthcare services, etc.
Mental disorders with Covid-19 and after
The neurotoxicity of the coronavirus is the cause of various mental disorders both during illness and in the postcoid period. These are heightened anxiety, various fears (including fear of dying from suffocation), depression, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts of a negative nature, sleep disturbances and cognitive functions. The long-term consequences of mental disorders after COVID-19 can be complete memory loss, and even Alzheimer’s disease (up to 2%).
Axial disorder of postcoid syndrome is organic asthenia, which is accompanied by cognitive impairments: impairment of memory, attention, concentration . With asthenia, a person is exhausted, which becomes the soil on which other mental disorders flourish.
Cognitive impairment is also often observed (on average, 55% of patients with COVID-19).
Today, psychiatrists are often referred to by patients who have already defeated coronavirus infection, but faced the consequences of COVID-19 called Long Covid or post-covid syndrome. In this case, up to 20 % of people suffer from long-term symptoms that can last up to 12 weeks and occur in more than 2.3 % of cases. These are the consequences of the postponed coronavirus infection. They can manifest themselves in the form of severe weakness, general malaise and fatigue, low-grade fever, shortness of breath, headaches, as well as pain in muscles and joints, gastrointestinal tract disorders, increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, etc. Some patients continue to feel severe asthenic manifestations, anxiety, depressed mood, sleep disturbances and cognitive functioning. Therefore, in case of manifestation of mental disorders, it is necessary to contact a psychotherapist or psychiatrist.
It is important to remember that self-medication, if necessary, drug therapy is very dangerous. Antidepressants and tranquilizers can only be prescribed by a specialist. In this case, you should not follow the example of someone and take medications because they helped a friend or neighbor. In addition to drugs, it may be necessary to work with a psychotherapist or psychologist, since the patient should not hold in himself the burden of negative emotions and experiences. You need to work through your worries and fears.
Postcoid insomnia is one of the most common problems that occurs after recovering from a coronavirus infection. Many patients complain of reduced sleep duration, early awakening, and trouble falling asleep. Often, sleep is superficial with frequent awakenings, and a person does not feel rested in the morning. No one knows how badly the neurons were damaged in each particular case, how much the number of synapses through which nerve impulses pass has decreased.
The best thing to do on your own is to ensure yourself the maximum peace and comfort before bed, as well as maintain sleep hygiene.
You need to go to bed and wake up at the same time, sleep 8 hours and fall asleep at least on the wrong day when you need to wake up.
It is undesirable to work in the place where you will sleep. It is necessary to ventilate the room and take a walk before going to bed.
Put away your gadgets and don’t watch TV at least 1 hour before bed. The blue glow of the screens interferes with the production of melatonin, which is very important for circadian rhythms and the quality of sleep, and an overabundance of information can cause and intensify anxiety, making it difficult to relax before bed.
For sleep disturbances, you can also try herbal remedies for a while, such as motherwort or valerian.
If, despite the recommended measures, sleep disturbances persist, it is necessary to consult a doctor, as this may be a manifestation, a symptom of some kind of disease, including mental ones.
Anxiety and coronavirus. Self help
Anxiety very often accompanies the coronavirus. If the degree of anxiety rises, and it does not go away with taking over-the-counter herbal drugs, see a doctor who can choose the necessary individual therapy.
When it comes to self-help, there are many exercises and techniques that can ease your condition . We will present some of them in this article.
One way to relieve anxiety is to keep an observation diary. You can write down your anxious thoughts and feelings, which will relieve tension, and since many of us are prone to catastrophization and thickening of colors, it is better to divide each of the pages into two parts. In one, write everything that worries, and in the other, describe the good that happened on that particular day. The positives may be minor. Communication with loved ones, watching a movie, any warm emotion – absolutely everything with a + sign is suitable. For convenience, it is better to use pens of different colors. For example, fill one half with blue and the other with green.
Breathing techniques are also effective in reducing anxiety levels.
It is very important that the diaphragm is actively involved in the process of breathing. To do this, you can do the following exercise:
Lie on your back. Place one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. As you inhale and exhale, count to five and make sure that only the second hand moves, and the first remains as still as possible. That is, in the process of breathing, the abdominal muscles should work as much as possible, and not the chest.
Another way to help yourself with increased anxiety is to build positive beliefs. Many of us tend to exaggerate or fixate on problems. To get yourself out of the negativity cycle, take ordinary colored stickers and write on them phrases of support for yourself, and then just stick them on the mirror of the cabinet, table, shelves, walls. It is in those places that are most often in sight. In this way, negative thoughts will be diluted with positive, supportive ones, and this will reduce anxiety and improve mood.
Also, no one canceled physical activity. Exercise is important to increase your endorphins. You don’t have to have a bunch of exercise machines or other gadgets at home. Nowadays, you can find many videos on the Internet with a variety of exercises. Dancing, yoga, gymnastics, fitness – choose what resonates and you like.
To normalize health and eliminate anxiety, tension, fears, it is extremely important to observe the daily routine, especially when it comes to sleep. It is advisable to fall asleep at 22-23.00, no later, and sleep should last at least 8 hours.
Recovery from coronavirus
Recovering from the coronavirus takes time, effort and patience. In addition to general weakness and other somatic symptoms, a person often experiences increased anxiety or other mental disorders. These mental disorders can be not only in the structure of the postcoid syndrome, but also be a manifestation of psychological distress. It is not easy to relive moments when life is in danger or when loved ones are sick. Therefore, it is important to maintain the most relaxed and comfortable atmosphere in your families. You need to communicate more with each other, since maximum support and care is what is especially needed not only for the elderly and children, but also for your halves. If there is no way to communicate in person, talk more by phone or video.
Walking in nature will be a special joy. Sunlight, flowering, greenery will give you peace of mind, tranquility.
Think about your hobbies that you had to leave earlier due to lack of time and workload. Maybe you haven’t ridden a bike for a long time or left an embroidery or painting unfinished.
And also, no one canceled the maintenance of a correct, healthy lifestyle. A good diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits, physical activity, filtering information is the best way to recover faster and return to normal life.
The main thing is not to immerse yourself completely and completely in conversations and watching various programs about coronavirus, sick, deceased. Try to break out of this matrix, stop endlessly listening to yourself and finding new symptoms or consequences of the disease. Remember that life after coronavirus exists and what it will be like depends on us!