While much has been done to understand the physical implications of contracting Covid-19, we have yet to grasp the potential long term mental health implications for patients. The necessary isolation experienced during initial recovery, coupled with natural feelings of frustration, fear and anxiety as the body fights off infection, can have a much greater impact than many yet understand or appreciate.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the potential mental health effects of Long Covid, and how contracting, fighting and recovering from the virus can affect your emotional and psychological health. We’ll also examine what Long Covid is, and when you should seek help from your GP or psychiatrist about your mental health.
What Is ‘Long Covid’?
Although for most people Covid-19 remains a mild and brief disease, others suffer for months with ‘Long Covid’ symptoms, such as fatigue, breathlessness and persistent pain. Long Covid can be extremely debilitating and even the simplest tasks, such as going for a walk, can feel exhausting and overwhelming.
Understandably, the world’s primary concern has been reducing overall cases of Covid and saving lives. However, the potential long-term effects of the disease have yet to be addressed and experts are only now identifying ongoing issues faced by those who successfully fought off an initial infection.
As the effects and severity of Covid-19 differ from case-to-case, it’s hard to recognise a pattern behind people’s Long Covid symptoms. According to first-hand accounts, we understand crippling fatigue to be the most common — exhaustion unlike anything sufferers have experienced before.
Other symptoms of Long Covid include breathlessness, a consistent cough that won’t go away, joint pain, muscle aches, hearing and eyesight problems, headaches, loss of taste and smell as well as damage to the heart, lungs, kidneys and stomach.
There is also a lack of scientific evidence to suggest a link between the severity of symptoms and the development of long-term issues. At this stage, we are relying on the ideas and theories of leading scientists and the results of small initial studies to offer vital insight. We empathise with the frustration many Covid-19 patients feel when their symptoms seem to continue indefinitely, and are urging the medical community to take careful note of the mental health symptoms their patients are bringing to them in the weeks and months after initial infection.
The Impact Of Long Covid On Mental Health
Considering how quickly Covid-19 has established itself as a highly infectious disease, it’s understandable that doctors and scientists are not yet well-equipped to deal with long term mental health symptoms in patients. The problem is much larger than many realise. In fact, a recent US study revealed that one in five Covid-19 patients had been subsequently diagnosed with a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety or insomnia, in the months following initial infection.
Due to the many variations in Covid-19 symptoms, it is difficult to predict how the virus will impact long term mental health. Those already suffering from conditions which are easily exacerbated by a global pandemic, such as OCD or severe anxiety, may experience heightened symptoms not addressed by their current treatment plan. Those who had previously overcome a mental health condition may be prone to relapse while fighting the virus. Those who have never experienced a mental health disorder, but who now find themselves affected by negative thoughts and emotions, lack existing support structures to help them manage their symptoms.
There is an increasing focus on the physical recovery of Covid-19 patients. However, we must also consider the mental health of those who face a long battle with ongoing Coronavirus symptoms. When we are physically well, suffering from a mental health condition can leave our energy levels depleted. Suppose we are physically weakened due to infection. In that case, a mental health condition such as depression or anxiety can cause severe knock-on effects, including extreme fatigue and an inability to care for oneself or others. With suicide rates continuing to rise, it is essential that Covid-19 patients have access to the mental health services they need.
The Knock-On Effects Of Lockdown
Covid-19 has had a lasting impact on the mental health of our nation. Extended periods of lockdown have resulted in financial uncertainty, disrupted routines and an inability to see loved ones or partake in hobbies and interests. Funerals, weddings, birthday parties and important family events have been postponed or cancelled during this strange period of stasis — children have been removed from school, parents from work, businesses have been told not to stay open. In situations such as these, an increase in instances of poor mental health feels almost inevitable.
Children and adolescents are particularly vulnerable to mental health disorders at this time, as they are removed from their social and educational settings and less able to express their emotions than adults. That is why it is crucial to prioritise support systems for child mental health during Covid-19, and to ensure that those children who may be separated from caregivers, recovering from infection or facing the knock-on effects of Covid-19 on their parents, are given additional support from appropriate mental health providers.
Mental Health Services During Covid-19
The potential mental health implications of Long Covid, and the pandemic in general, are many and various. Unless people receive the support and resources they need during this time, we will see a significant increase in cases of mental health disorders in the coming weeks, months and years.
Those of us simply feeling a little frustrated with being cooped up during lockdown and missing our friends, can turn to the web for advice on how to focus on wellness, mental and physical health during Covid-19. But what about those suffering from a more serious mental health disorder, for whom a workout, walk around the block, or daily yoga session simply will not suffice? If you, or a loved one, are experiencing mental health difficulties during Covid-19, please don’t hesitate to seek the advice of a mental health professional. Whether this is your local GP, a private psychiatrist or your existing therapist, seeking help fast and early is key.
Mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety disorders, which are now being linked to Long Covid, require professional treatment to manage the symptoms and improve a sufferer’s quality of life. Unfortunately, many people are hesitant to seek the help they need, often due to shame, fear or a misplaced belief that they should simply “soldier on” and ignore how they are feeling. Seeking help is a positive step, not a sign of weakness, and will enable you to enjoy better mental health and overall happiness in what is an incredibly challenging time for us all.
Getting Help Quickly
We are living in uncertain and unpredictable times. We all need to be mindful of our wellbeing and take nothing for granted, including our mental health. Coronavirus related or otherwise, we’re seeing conversations around mental health growing, which gives us the hope that people suffering from symptoms of a disorder will address their concerns and seek help.
If you are currently suffering from the symptoms of a new or ongoing mental health issue, don’t hesitate to contact us. Whether Long Covid, lockdown depression or an entirely different condition has led you to us, we are ready and waiting to ensure that you have the advice, guidance and support you need to enjoy better mental health and happiness.