Psychiatric experts predict that the Covid-19 pandemic will lead to a tsunami of emotional and psychiatric disorders.
Factors such as self-isolation and quarantine affect people’s normal activities, routines and work activities. These influences may lead to increased loneliness, anxiety, depression, sleep disorders, alcohol or drug abuse, and also to suicidal tendencies (WGO,2020c).
In the past year, literally millions of people worldwide have lost their jobs. The accompanying lack of income has led to further problems and uncertainty. This increases the risk for depression, anxiety and suicide. The ripple effect of personal economic pressure also leads to people struggling and even shying away from getting help for their psychiatric illnesses. When psychiatric help is neglected, it simply aggravates and prolongs the specific illness.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
PTSD can develop when we are exposed to a traumatic event, or when someone close to us has to deal with such an event.
When someone experienced trauma, it is a natural and normal reaction to feel anxious, more emotional, experience insomnia, or to simply feel angry at times. Some people’s reaction to trauma is to avoid the place where the trauma took place or not to talk about it.
When these typical symptoms continue for longer than two weeks and negatively affect a person’s functioning, it can develop into a post-traumatic stress disorder that is an illness in itself.
The trauma associated with contracting Covid-19, or even the long, strict isolation, can result in you or someone close to you developing PTSD as an illness.
PTSD can be effectively treated with medication or psychotherapy, or a combination thereof.
Anxiety can be described as an intense feeling of fear. The primary function of fear is to warn us of real or possible danger.
Although fear is completely normal, it can also develop into an anxiety disorder in the current circumstances of impending unemployment, illness and death. The fear and anxiety associated with an anxiety disorder can become so overwhelming that it negatively affects people’s functionality in various areas. Sometimes such a person’s functionality is affected in literally all areas of his/her life.
Because health care workers are at the forefront of the pandemic and therefore come into direct contact with patients, they may also experience high levels of anxiety. They have to deal with the worst cases of Covid-19 and its direct impact on people on a daily basis. Their daily exposure to patients means that they and their families are at high risk to contract the disease, which can lead to greater anxiety. The uncertainties associated with the Covid-19 vaccines in themselves can cause further anxiety.
The Covid-19 lockdown and infection control measures take away many of our normal mechanisms to cope with fear and anxiety. Social interaction, going to the gym, hugs from friends and family, going to church, etc. are all normal mechanisms for coping with fear and anxiety. The lack of these mechanisms may lead to higher levels of anxiety.
Depression as a psychiatric illness is indicated when the feeling that you are in a black hole (a feeling of being depressed) lasts longer than two weeks.
Constant high negative pressure, long working hours, fears of falling ill and social isolation can result in the development of depression. Constant exposure to many deaths and the concomitant grief over a prolonged period can lead to depression in health care workers.
Depression is characterised by a lack of joy, a feeling of depression, fatigue, aggression, negative thoughts, more emotional reactions and suicidal thoughts. A person’s memory, concentration and the ability to handle stress can be negatively affected.
If the symptoms persist for longer than two weeks, it must be taken seriously.
Depression can be effectively treated with medication or psychotherapy, or a combination thereof.
Feelings of guilt
Feelings of guilt often arise when a person who was diagnosed with Covid-19 transmitted the disease to family members or friends. In some cases, the family member and friends died from the disease. Because the person feels guilty and responsible for the death of his/her next of kin, many feelings of guilt and self-blame are involved. If these feelings of guilt are not dealt with, it could lead to depression.
Obsessive-compulsive behaviour (OCB)
Obsessive-compulsive behaviour is observed in many patients who have contracted Covid-19 and who also suffer from anxiety.
To be in control of something helps to reduce anxiety and fear. OCB includes excessive alertness accompanied by an extreme feeling of anxiety. An obsessive and compulsive focus and fixation on hand washing, wearing masks, repeated cleaning and staying away from other people are attempts to be in control, thereby reducing fears. Although it could help to some extent, it is only a small part of what we can do to reduce fear.
OCB mostly occurs in people who became very ill from Covid-19 themselves, or who have lost family members and/or friends due to the disease. The person’s everyday functioning is affected and it also hinders their quality of life.
Working from home
The “new normal” is that our office is in our living room or bedroom. The time and stressors associated with commuting to the “old office” is supposed to make this new life easier. However, the isolation away from the community and social interaction in the “old office” can lead to depression and anxiety.
The culture of working from home is new and the lack of healthy boundaries can lead to burnout and poor family relationships.
Many people work harder than ever before, take fewer breaks and even work until late at night or over weekends. The idea of, “Since I am here, I can quickly do it” or “I just want to make a quick call to find out something since they are there too,” (although it is 11 o’clock at night) etc. demolishes good boundaries. It has a negative psychological impact on the individual and on family relationships.
For more information, contact:
Nicolene Cronje – Marketing Official for Vista Clinic
082 710 7197