COVID-19: Mental health, fear and anxiety
D. Sheikhshoib, Srinagar. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Covid-19 is a novel corona virus that was first detected in China and has been detected all over the world including in our union territory of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
Pandemics are not just a medical phenomenon they affect individual, and society on many levels causing disruptions. Stigma and xenophobia are the social aspects of pandemic outbreaks. Corona virus infection has been increasing at alarming rate since the end of last year and has been declared pandemic by W.H.O. (World Health Organisation).
As with other disasters, this pandemic has become fertile ground for many psychological disorders particularly anxiety disorders. As corona strikes India sales of many anti-anxiety drugs suddenly increased in the Indian market.
Corona virus is not just threatening our physical health, but our mental health too. It definitely has an impact on your mental health and can cause anxiety and fear. It is important to focus on self-care and also mental health support.
Kashmir is known for its beauty and also for turmoil present in the valley from past two decades, which caused a rise in psychological and psychiatric disorders. This pandemic which has reached to Kashmir has led to increase in many anxiety disorders particularly among the patients who are already suffering from mental disorders.
From past few month anxiety levels of patients has been increased and lot of patients have attended hospital because of these symptoms. The corona virus, presents some unique and difficult challenges to our daily mental health that go far beyond worrying because of the growing death rate.
There are various reasons why pandemic like corona affects mental health:
• Rumours and misconception regarding the illness;
• fear of getting disease or loved one getting affected by illness;
• decreased job security;
• promoting social withdrawal;
• loneliness; decreased financial security;
• increased health anxiety; triggers feeling of hopelessness; and
• mindset switch from living to survival.
The pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may be varied response among people depending upon age and premorbid conditions.
Although the effect of the corona virus on mental health has not been systemically studied, it is anticipated to have multitude of effects. Different people react differently to stress full events.
Fear and anxiety about a disease can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions in adults and children. People who respond more strongly to crisis include extremes of patients of all ages (very young, teen and elderly) and patients with chronic medical conditions.
In addition, patients who are already suffering from mental health issues and substance abuse, and health care providers also respond strongly to stress. Being stressed about the news is comprehensible, but for many people it can make existing mental health problems worse.
Stress during infectious disease outbreak can include:
• excessive fear and worry about illness;
• change in sleep and eating pattern;
• irritability and acting out behaviour in teen; sadness;
• difficulty in attention and concentration; and
• unexplained body aches and headache.
Remember, you are not alone in this, everyone is experiencing discomfort and support and help is there if you need. You cannot control the virus at present but you do have tools for managing the mental health.
When the World Health Organization, released advice on protecting your mental health during the coronavirus outbreak, it was welcomed on social media.
Patients who are suffering from mental health issues should continue treatment and should inform mental health professional in case of new or worsening of symptoms.
Here is some advice that may give some comfort to those who are struggling with these symptoms;
follow general precautions and standard recommendations to maintain hygiene;
avoid excess Health related news. We all want to remain up to date when it comes to health related events, but people with health related anxiety should avoid reading excess health related update because it becomes compulsive for them to read the news again and again.
If you are worried about the symptoms of illness, talking to your friend or consulting doctor is better option in emergency situation; avoid goggling of symptoms.
( Dr Google is not and never will be your friend, and can neither provide sufficient and comprehensive understanding of symptoms);
• Exercise can help calm you down and allay your anxiety.
• Deep breathing and relaxation therapy can be very beneficial also decrease the anxiety; allocate a daily worry period;
• Giving yourself sometime to worry about and listening to your heart and then you have to go and do something else;
• Remember your anxiety state is not permanent and just take it as rough patch in your life.
• Acknowledging that life is like journey and you will face up and down in life;
• Anything that gives you little boost and you will feel better can decrease your anxiety. It can vary from taking a bath or going to walk; talk with people you trust and share your concern and feeling about everything what is going on;
• “apple” technique to deal with anxiety and worries in crises situations; acknowledge the insecurity will come to end;
• Pause and deep breathing. Don’t react at all;
• Don’t believe everything you think and just think it is worry talking;
• Just let go your unwanted thoughts and think they will go and are not permanent; explore the world around and feel your sensation. Look around and notice what you see, what you hear, what you can touch, what you can smell;
• Avoid making any assumptions.
• Don’t judge people and try not make conclusions about who is responsible for disease spread.
The disease can affect any one irrespective of age, sex and ethnicity.
Connect to your health care provider or mental health professional if the stress gets in the way of your daily activities for several days in succession.
If there is a chance you have contracted corona virus, you may asked to isolated yourself. For most of the people it seems like daunting task. Keep in contact with your loved ones via texts, social media and phone calls. Keeping yourself busy with scheduled activities and use of relaxation technique may be helpful.
The current Covid-19 pandemic has multitude of effect on affect from inciting fear and phobia on society. On individual level, it may exacerbate anxiety and many mental health issues.
Early detection and treatment can alleviate sufferings of patients. Social contact and maintaining routines can be supportive for our mental health and wellbeing.
In circumstances where this is not possible, staying connected with friends and family online or by phone may assist.
Author is consultant Neuropsychiatrist at JLNM Hospital Srinagar