Covid has had a huge impact on all of us. While those who contracted the virus experienced their own significant mental and physical problems, it’s the overall effects of the virus on society that have caused more lasting, ongoing effects.
Uncertainty. Loss. Isolation. These have been recurring difficulties faced by many throughout the pandemic. Even people who generally have a hardy mental aspect have been challenged in 2020. Mental health isn’t just defined by those people that have a clinical diagnosis. It’s everyone. And as for physical wellbeing? Well, that’s intrinsically tied to mental health, too.
Today we take a look at some of the difficulties faced due to Covid, and their immediate, as well as ongoing effects.
While it’s often great to have the opportunity to stay at home, during regular life, when we are forced to for weeks and even months on end, then it’s a different story. Being cooped up inside is not great for physical health. It means we’re forced to do exercise indoors to stay fit, and for many, give it up altogether. Plenty of people have stacked on the pounds across the course of Covid, with this not only being bad for physical health – but also can wear on people’s body image too.
Social isolation and loneliness are a direct effect of lockdowns and social distancing measures taken across the globe throughout the Covid crisis. Loneliness has been linked to poor mental health far before Covid arrived, however, the virus has brought on forced isolation that many people would avoid in their regular lives.
Caring and loss
People whose loved ones contracted the virus, or have loved ones who are in the at-risk category, have had a particularly difficult time. The stress of caring for people, dealing with illness and bereavement, or not being able to visit their loved ones in the hospital, even dying, presents a very painful and difficult time.
With entire industries grinding to a halt, many people have lost their jobs without alternatives in place to support themselves. This economic stress places a huge burden on not only those people who have lost their job, but on those people they are supporting, as well as others who need to support the person who has lost their jobs: it’s a ripple effect. While some countries social systems have cushioned the impact (see: Canada), others have left those who have lost their jobs pretty much out in the cold.
Stress, when not dealt with in a healthy manner, can eke out into nervous behaviors that can turn into a real problem. These can include things like biting nails to the quick, self-harm including cutting, compulsive porn viewing, and gambling. In fact, too many gamblers have found their way online and have exasperated their gambling problems 10 fold. Unwinding these damaging behaviors can be a tricky experience.
There can be a fine line between substance use and substance abuse. Many people have seen their intake of various substances increase significantly during Covid. One particular study showed an increase in days drinking per month overall, as well as an increase in heavy drinking sessions, and problematic drinking. Other substance issues, such as opioid use, have been shown to be on the rise too. For illegal drug users, users have self-reported switching to other substances that are easier to get their hands on.
Domestic abuse rises
The effects of Covid have also been cascading in the number of domestic abuse hotline calls, according to the New York Times. Stay at home orders have heightened tensions in relationships that are already stressed. Whereas domestic abuse sufferers have felt reprieve pre-Covid in being able to escape to work, with stay at home orders in place across the world and being cooped up together almost 24 hours a day, this reprieve has vanished. This presents its own unique set of
The ongoing effects
Like any other mental health incidents, the effects of Covid aren’t just going to disappear when life eventually goes back to ‘normal.’ Similar to PTSD, we’re likely to see the ongoing effects of this generational incident for many, many years to come. For mental health professionals, it will be important to support clients with as much empathy and skill-building know-how as possible. Keep up to date with training, industry movements associated with Covid, and most of all remember to take care of your own mental health during and after this trying time.