The impact of coronavirus on the psyche

The effect of coronavirus on the psyche is a topic of interest to many, since the infection has not yet been defeated . And those who have not yet been sick are anxious in anticipation of a possible infection and an unknown future, and those who have suffered a coronavirus worry about the consequences. American scientists have published the results of a study on the impact of COVID-19 on human cognitive function and memory. It turned out that during illness, in particular, during the onset of the inflammatory process, special immune cells of the brain are activated and change the way they communicate with neurons. To neutralize pathogens, some cells simultaneously destroy the neural connections that are necessary for the normal functioning of the brain. The virus is capable of disrupting the work of neuroimmune cells, which in the long term can lead to damage to neurons. Of course, it is too early to draw loud conclusions, it is known that chronic stress or a prolonged inflammatory process can be a risk factor for memory impairment, nevertheless, the question of the effect of coronavirus on the psyche worries scientists and us all more and more.

In the scientific medical journal The Lancet Psychiatry , the results of the work of scientists at Oxford University were published. The researchers determined the presence or absence of a connection between the coronavirus and the occurrence or aggravation of mental illness against its background. After analyzing about 70 million medical records of US residents, among them more than 60 thousand Covid-19 patients who did not require inpatient treatment (hospitalization), they received impressive results. About 18% of patients experienced mental disorders within 14-90 days after confirming the diagnosis of coronavirus infection. Moreover, in 5.8% such problems were identified for the first time.

Among the disorders that debuted were delusional, depressive, and anxiety states, PTSD, and others.  

For the accuracy and reliability of the data of the experiment, the number of mental disorders was compared with those that occurred with other diseases – infections of various etiologies, kidney and gallbladder stones, fractures, etc. 4-3.4%.  

Mental disorders in coronavirus

Mental disorders in coronavirus can be caused by the neurotoxicity of the virus. This is the conclusion that many mental health researchers have come to. Patients with COVID-19 become lethargic, depressed, their thinking process significantly deteriorates. The situation is aggravated by oxygen starvation, especially in severe cases of the disease. 

Much more often, mental disorders in coronavirus are observed in anxious individuals or in those who suffer from anxiety-depressive and other mental disorders . From the additional anxiety that arises in connection with COVID-19, their mental state worsens, but also their somatic one, due to anxiety, in which adrenaline is released into the blood, which activates the autonomic nervous system. There is an increase in heart rate, respiration, blood pressure rises, the work of the gastrointestinal tract (GIT) is disrupted (activated), which leads to flatulence and diarrhea, etc.

Mental health and the coronavirus pandemic

Mental health and the coronavirus pandemic are linked in such a way that COVID-19 can negatively affect the psyche. This applies not only to the direct impact of a viral disease. Many people in a coronavirus pandemic, being in a stressful state, worry not only about their own health (possible infection, the course of the disease and the postcoid period), but also worry about the risks of infection with the virus of loved ones. And also humanity is in conditions of relative social isolation, loss of jobs, which also adversely affects their mental health. A person is oppressed by a feeling of helplessness and a forced change in the usual rhythm of life.

Reactions of COVID-19 patients:

Among those infected with COVID-19, there are those who mobilize strength, try not to immerse themselves in negative experiences and actively overcome the disease. Such people recover much faster and cope with the situation more easily.

But there are others who react differently to their illness. They have a reaction of rejection or denial of the disease. They cannot fully grasp the situation and do not want to trust the doctors. They also do not follow medical recommendations, they may even continue to attend work with a fever and cough. There are people today who do not believe that a disease such as coronavirus exists, and even in some cases, they die from COVID-19.

Aggressive reactions may also occur. During illness, everyone is forced to change their usual way of life. You have to come to terms with the fact that you cannot even visit the nearest store or pharmacy on your own, and there is no strength. It is necessary to observe isolation, and alone, due to severe weakness, it is very difficult to take care of oneself. A COVID-19 patient suffers from both self-isolation and a painful condition, since COVID-19 does not always proceed easily. From helplessness and despair, patients with coronavirus can show aggression towards loved ones, with whom they communicate nearby and remotely. 

Coping with anxiety and panic during the coronavirus

You can cope with anxiety and panic during COVID-19 using breathing techniques, relaxation and distraction techniques, and muscle work. Of course, you need to protect yourself from the negative impact of the information flow. Stop watching the news with frightening statistics, listen to the stories of friends about those who died from COVID-19 and those who suffered from it with complications. People without medical education cannot assess such information objectively. Those who give you this frightening information will never say that the deceased had 3 strokes or heart failure with diabetes before contracting. Only COVID-19 will be to blame for everything. Such communication will not be constructive. Only the level of anxiety, fear, panic will increase, and this leads to an increase in the production of adrenaline and cortisol, which in turn is not useful for the immune system. It turns out that we ourselves increase the risk of the disease.

The best thing to do in this situation is to add physical activity. Any mobile forms of activity contribute to an increase in the amount of endorphins. Work out at home on simulators or do gymnastics, dance. If possible, take a walk in places without crowds. Nature is very calming. Treat yourself to something pleasant. A cup of aromatic coffee with cookies, herbal tea, interesting books or magazines, classical music, watching movies or virtual concerts and exhibitions. Every new day without information slag will positively affect your mental state.   

Self- help techniques can also help you cope with anxiety and panic during COVID-19 . 

Among them:

  • breathing techniques (squared, counting, deep and shallow breathing);
  • relaxation and muscle tension;
  • distraction, constant preoccupation with your thoughts;
  • visualization and relaxation.

Psychotherapists and psychologists advise finding positive aspects in a difficult situation of being in self-isolation or quarantine . Quarantine not only diminishes something from our lives, it can open up new opportunities for us. Right now, many have the most important resource – free time. The moment has come when you can start learning foreign languages, do a general cleaning or rearrange the furniture in the apartment, communicate as much as possible with children, wife or husband, parents. There are additional chances and opportunities to take care of your inner world – to work with a psychologist, to devote time to prayer or meditation. And when else can you clean your computer and smartphone, sort through documents and photos? Almost everyone used to complain of chronic lack of sleep – here it is, a magical time for your loved one.

It is very important not to use computers and gadgets two hours before bed, as the specific blue light from their screens interferes with the production of melatonin. If you need to work before going to bed, get special glasses with yellow lenses. But, of course, if possible, leave such work in the morning and afternoon hours.

Do not make vain attempts to control the outside world and circumstances – it is pointless and destructive, shift all your attention to yourself and your family; perhaps quarantine is a reason to rethink values ​​and set new priorities in life.

Induction of anxiety in coronavirus. Think about loved ones

Negative thinking, constant experiences, repeated viewing of programs about the pandemic not only lead you to anxiety, knock you out of your normal state, but also induce negative experiences in family and friends. Right now, you need to take maximum responsibility on yourself and not allow yourself uncontrolled anxiety, despondency and despair, since there are children and elderly parents next to you who are much more acutely experiencing the situation if you behave insecurely. Your task is to provide them with the maximum level of peace and stability, and not to stir up panic and undermine confidence in the future. Give your loved ones attention.

Communicate more, even by phone or video, if there is no way to be around all the time. Share pleasant emotions, something good that is happening in your life, or shared memories that warm your soul. Why not talk about last summer’s vacation, or celebrating Mom’s birthday. All this can be discussed with the hope that further, after the pandemic, there will be many bright joint travels, holidays, and impressions.

Uncontrollable emotions, anxiety and coronavirus. What to do?

If you understand that anxiety, fear, panic, constant thoughts about a pandemic cannot be overcome on your own, that is, you cannot agree with your anxiety and yourself – contact the specialists. A psychiatrist, psychotherapist or psychologist is always ready to help you cope with a worsening mental state. You should not delay solving the problem and wait until it grows like a snowball. If you are sick and cannot come to an in-person consultation, use the opportunity to communicate online. Fortunately, now most of the specialists work remotely as well.

event_note June 17, 2021

account_box Winona Tse MD

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