Many still associate the Spanish Flu, which caused a maximum of 50 million fatalities from April 1918 – 1920, as the deadliest influenza outbreak in the history of pandemics. But, exactly a century later, people who had heard about the Spanish Flu from their parents or grandparents during their childhood, witnessed the onset of a new deadly viral outbreak – the COVID-19 pandemic.
For the last two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has served as one of the major causes of health crises in both urban and rural populations. As the pandemic gravely affected medical conditions – primarily in immunocompromised individuals and the elderly – it also brought the economy to a staggering halt. Travel restrictions became the new status quo, and with it brought a wide indulgence of xenophobia and racism.
While the WHO informed the public about the medical consequences of exposure to the rapidly spreading and mutating COVID-19 virus, it also imposed safety precautions worldwide. Such safety precautions included the mandatory use of facial masks – surgical preferred – and regular sanitization and disinfection of surroundings.
Where deteriorations in physical health mandated an urgent response, the influential awareness about the novel coronavirus worsened mental health as well. Social isolation, loss of profound income, and fear of getting gravely ill triggered anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and relapses of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in many sufferers. With anxiety and depressive episodes in the air, there is still not much to say regarding the mental health of people with pre-diagnosed mental illnesses.
Researchers are still trying to assess, analyze, and report the psychological consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in the USA, Netherlands, MENA (Middle East and North Africa), and China, of course. While the pandemic led to crippling interpersonal relationships, it also induced unity and brought the entire world together to join hands (hypothetically speaking) and collaborate in coping strategies.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Depression
Commonly known as OCD, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a mental health disorder that manifests as recurrent obsessions and/or mental and physical compulsions in response to the triggers. OCD triggers obsessions that revolve around the uncertainty of the future; as in this case, people might develop a fear of germ contamination that could possibly lead to a grave illness and/or death.
To relieve oneself of the anxiety induced by the respective fear, the sufferer might relentlessly perform compulsions (mental ruminations or physical actions) that will also serve as reassurance. Due to the SOPs imposed by the WHO, people with or without OCD began hoarding and obsessively using tissue rolls, disinfectants, sanitizers, and aseptic handwashes to keep themselves ‘safe’ and ‘clean’ at all times.
It was found that people with pre-diagnosed or self-reported mental health disorders demonstrated more symptoms of distress due to an increasing fear of uncertainty and aggressive obsessions (Pan et al, 2020). Over 78% of people – mostly the younger generations – saw a detrimental increase in symptoms of OCD and depression, with disregard to gender.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), PTSD, and ADHD
As the pandemic influenced people to stay indoors, children too, suffered from social isolation and impulsivity during the past two years. Gen Z is reported to be more susceptible to depression and anxiety as compared to millennials or baby boomers.
As per a systematic review, over 6.3 to 50.9% of anxiety cases as well as 7 to 53.8% of those with depression were reported worldwide. More than half of the respondents, ranging from 8.1 to 81.9%, suffered from a peak in psychological stress during the initial stages of the COVID-10 pandemic (Xiong et al, 2020).
While financial insufficiency served as one of the major conflicts to cause distress, disorientation, and mood changes in adults, the negative emotions and uncertainty also engulfed their children and induced anxiety. While many children can express their emotions by crying, others might respond entirely differently.
According to a study published in June 2020, children and teens either became too distracted easily with lessened concentration and attention spans (as in ADHD), or became too annoyed from having to stay indoors during the lockdown. As eating disorders are primarily prevalent during adolescence, children and teens are at a greater risk of developing anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa.
Children or adolescents suffering from emotional abuse or sexual assault became more prone to cause self-harm and were consequently, diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD however, saw a relative decline in symptoms during the pandemic, but they still led to anxiety, grief, and suffering.
Children are largely affected by their environment – hostility can cause fear and a disproportional balance in daily activities. With the stigma revolving around the diagnosis of COVID-19, many teens feared social discrimination and lack of help in emergent cases. Plus, social isolation led the children to be away from their infected relatives for weeks or beyond, inducing anxiety as well as post-traumatic stress disorder in severely fatal cases.
The Final Word
People who suffered from lifetime cases of anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorders were (and are) more prone to suffer from mental health deterioration as compared to those without.
- This demographic included youngsters, especially teenagers with an inclination towards self-harm, ADHD, and generalized anxiety disorder, and warranted prolonged psychiatric care with or without medications.
- Women who either live alone or with an abusive partner and are unemployed or conflicted with financial stressors are more likely to be affected by the detrimental psychological consequences of the pandemic.
- Many people consume alcohol or develop substance abuse addictions in order to relieve the anxiety and stress caused by the pandemic. To cope with deteriorating mental health, addicts are hence at grave risk of developing chronic medical conditions such as fatal respiratory or heart conditions as a result of exposure to COVID-19 as well.
We, at Manhattan Medical Arts, seek to address your psychological concerns in a safe space without any judgment. Book an appointment with our onboard psychiatrist today, and allow us to help you strive for the betterment of your emotional well-being,
– Disclaimer –
This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.
About The AuthorDr. Syra Hanif M.D.
Board Certified Primary Care Physician
Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.Read More