- It is common to have some fear and worry about your health, financial situation, or loss of support services, during the COVID-19 pandemic situation
- The response of people to stress varies and can depend on the background, financial situation, or health and emotional background
- Lack of proper sleep, having crippling anxiety that affects functioning, not seeing any positive outcome, engaging in self-harm, and losing interest in day to day activities could indicate that you need professional help
It is a worrisome time for people around the world. People are getting stressed, worried, or scared about the COVID-19 pandemic. As the pandemic continues to infect millions and claim thousands of lives, mental health care professionals have been reporting a spike in the number of people showing anxiety and depression symptoms.
The uncertainty about the situation is what scares people. The outcome is unknown, and the thought of 'what could happen' can be overwhelming. Besides, public health actions like social distancing, and quarantining can increase loneliness and isolation among people. It makes it easier for people to fall into the unending vortex of dread and panic.
A study was conducted to explore the different degrees of psychological distress among different sections of the Indian society. The study published in Community Mental Health Journal stated that the fear about the pandemic and its outcomes was all-pervasive. It was observed more among students and healthcare professionals.
People are genuinely worried about losing their jobs and economic slowdown after the pandemic. People have different ways of coping with fear, stress, and anxiety. While some can deal with stress in a healthy way, others have a maladaptive way of coping with stress. The Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has come up with a detailed mental health guideline to help mental health professionals manage the rise in mental health disorders due to the pandemic.
Mental health is an important part of overall health and general well-being. People with pre-existing mental health conditions can be particularly vulnerable to the situation as it can affect the person's thinking, feeling, mood, or behavior in a way that influences their ability to function every day. It is imperative to get in touch with a mental healthcare professional if you or any of your loved ones display the following signs:
Sleep problems- Broken or disturbed sleep, having nightmares or the inability to sleep enough or well every night is a key indicator of faulty coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety. The inability to fall asleep fast tells you that your stress levels are off the charts.
No silver lining- If you are able to focus on only the COVID-19 and not to process any of the positive news about the world shows that you don't see any light at the end of the tunnel. Being incapable of seeing beyond negativity may be a sign of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Crippling anxiety When feelings get to the point that you are unable to function normally could be a sign that you need help. While feeling helpless in the face of a threat might be normal, being constantly swamped with feelings of anxiety, dread and panic can make it next to impossible for you to take a break, recuperate and refresh yourself.
Stuck in survival mode- People can go into an apocalyptic mode and resort habits like hoarding, hibernating or obsessing over the smallest of lapses in safety measures. While this may be necessary at some point, constantly being stuck in survival mode can lead to emotional draining, fatigue and exhaustion. It then requires clinical support.
Loss of interest- At the beginning of the pandemic, many people resorted to recreational activities like cooking, reading, watching movies. Over time, the interest in these activities began to wane and did no longer bring any joy. Experiencing a complete loss of interest in such activities indicate that you need to talk to someone about your mental health.
Self-harm- If negative thoughts force you to engage in self-harming behaviors like cutting, burning or strangulation, or think persistently about committing suicide, then you should reach out for help immediately.
Anxiety and fear can lead to panic in some people and panic-driven behaviors like unnecessarily getting tested, and hoarding of food supplies to a point where it is not available to those in need. Some people can function in denial, where they do not accept the seriousness of the situation to avoid fear and anxiety. Such behaviors can endanger their lives as well as the lives of people around them.
It is better always to take a middle stance when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. The best practices include good hand hygiene, staying home when you feel sick, and having a plan in case you need to self-isolate.