The COVID-19 pandemic brought disruptions to everyday life and forced many people into situations that exacerbated feelings of anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions. Understanding these and other ways that COVID-19 has influenced mental health is critical to addressing the unique challenges of these conditions. Only then can mental health providers and their patients find ways to move forward in the wake of the pandemic.
Isolation Is a Risk Factor
From isolating after testing positive to simply spending more time at home, COVID-19 cut a lot of people off from their social networks. For many, this meant not being able to access support from loved ones during hard times.
When it comes to mental health, isolation is a well-known complication. Being disconnected from loved ones makes you more vulnerable to feelings of worry, fear, and doubt. Furthermore, boredom from being stuck at home all the time can lead to maladaptive coping behaviors, such as substance abuse. All of these problems are exacerbated by the fact that isolation cuts you off from support systems and professional help, making it harder to address developing mental health issues.
Certain Disorders Are on the Rise
As mental health stigma lessens and more people discuss the issues surrounding mental illness, it can seem like many disorders are on the rise. Part of this simply stems from the fact that more people are getting official diagnoses. However, COVID-19 can also play a role in increasing mental illness numbers.
For example, there has been a rise in social anxiety cases that stems partially from periods of isolation, the formation of new social rules, and other stressors associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Other mental health issues that have increased in the face of the pandemic include depression, PTSD, and behavioral disorders. The latter is especially problematic for children who have experienced disruptions in learning, socializing, and other key developmental steps due to the pandemic.
Burnout Exacerbates Symptoms
Burnout is another challenge associated with the development or worsening of mental health issues, and it only became more common during the pandemic. Constant fear, stress, and disruption of life outside of work led to poorer productivity and motivation on the job. Moreover, work environments changed across all industries. People working remotely had to adjust to balancing home responsibilities during the workday. Essential workers faced higher demands than ever before. Healthcare workers suffered from incomparable pressure, limited resources, and heavy emotional burdens.
These issues presented greater levels of stress at work and throughout other aspects of life. For many, the resulting burnout at work led to feelings of frustration and worthlessness, fear of losing their job, uncertainty about the future, and overall unhappiness with where they were in life. Many of these feelings—and the mental health issues they present—are still around, even though work environments have changed since the early days of the pandemic.
The world is still facing the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the area of mental health. By understanding the influences COVID-19 has on mental health, psychologists and counselors can address their patients’ unique challenges and experiences to provide better, more effective care.