Psychological effects of coronavirus on mental health

Mehwish Azam

Islamabad: The current year has not been an easy one since the novel coronavirus has hit the world abruptly. It has taken its toll on almost all aspects of common man’s life and that of global economies.
Finances, business markets, health and education systems, everything has been interrupted badly however, the most important yet less talked about impact of coronavirus is mental health issues that the novel virus has brought along.
Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, however, their bodies’ responses towards stress are almost the same.
The psychological impacts of Covid-19 have been drastic mainly because the medical world has put all its focus on finding the vaccine and unknowingly ignored the negative mental effects caused by the disease.

It is evident that because of the spread which was followed by the global lockdown, there are a number of people affected by various psychological ailments such as anxiety, stress and depression.
Dr. Imtiaz Bukhari, who has been practicing psychiatry for 33 years, said the situation erupted followed by global pandemic and then lockdown was a totally novel phenomena and thus it brought unique mental health conditions along.
“Most recently, I have had patients with anxiety in higher numbers. It was usually because they either have this fear of getting the virus for them and their loved one or one of their relatives, acquaintances’ death from the virus had made them depressed”, he said.

Dr. Imtiaz said those who had fear of contacting the virus were higher in number hence they had anxiety followed by depression.
“It was rather important to provide them with mental health care because it is about overall health and wellbeing. It affects not only how we think, feel, and act but also how we react towards stressful situations and make choices during an emergency”, he added.

Another clinical psychologist Sidra Shouakt said that as a psychologist she was faced with another unique challenge which was helping the patients with their post corona interaction with the public.
“I had a patient who recovered from coronavirus and wanted to start his normal life after being quarantined. However, it was his office that told him to extend his leave a little longer as they were concerned about others’ wellbeing. My patient was disheartened and got depressed with this tabooed attitude of his colleagues.

Major preoccupations, for instance fear of death, feelings of solitude and annoyance, stigma, mass hysteria, panic and xenophobia and common mental disorders like anxiety and depression can occur among masses especially among those who are quarantined”, she elaborated.

She said taking care of one’s emotional health was important even post lockdown situations because a tabooed attitude towards those sneezing or coughing could still be seen.
These kinds of situations create an awkward environment and cause anxiety in people.
“Those who are more vulnerable emotionally should take a break from watching, reading or listening to news stories, including those on social media.

Hearing about the pandemic repeatedly can be upsetting as news of a second wave of coronavirus in the country were also in circulation, she suggested.
Besides, the health of the general population, COVID-19 pandemic has also affected the frontline health care workers. As a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, health care professionals (HCPs) are facing immense strain due to the heavy load of cases.
In many cases, they work increasingly long hours, often with limited resources and a dubious infrastructure. Thus, it is important to check on the mental health of caregivers as well.

A cross-sectional study was conducted in May 2020 by a website, at various hospitals in Karachi, Pakistan.
All HCPs posted in the COVID-19 isolation wards were invited to participate and a total of 112 completed this study.
A carefully structured form was created, which included the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale-21 (DASS-21). Out of the 112 health care professionals (HCPs) who participated in this study, 64 were males and 48 were females.
The overall mean score of anxiety was 19.01 ± 9.2, depression was 18.12 ± 10, and stress was 20.12 ± 12.0.
The study found that the most common reason for stress and anxiety among HCPs treating COVID-19 positive patients was the fear that they might infect their family members (89.2%), followed by the fear of getting infected themselves (80.3%).
Other reasons were: increased workload (64.2%), lack of PPE (62.5%), lack of security (62.5%), and lack of awareness among the general population about COVID-19 (46.4%).

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), as of October 20, 2020, the novel Coronavirus has affected more than 40,251,950 people around the world and has taken more than 1,116,131 lives and has spread to more than 210 countries and territories. Incepted from Wuhan, Hubei, is the ongoing global public health emergency and was declared a pandemic by WHO in March earlier this year.
During a pandemic like Covid-19; not only the health of people is affected; it has an effect on living conditions of the people causing social malfunction.

The seriousness of the condition, uncertainty about the control of the disease and misinformation are some of the most worrisome situations that can increase anxiety among masses.