Mental Health in the Midst of Coronavirus (Resources and More)
(This post has been edited to add additional links)
Mental health in the midst of Coronavirus (Covid 19), specifically: depression and anxiety (links to various resources father below).
Before I get to the links, I wanted to remind any readers I’ve had GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) since childhood, and for many years, I had clinical depression. I saw psychiatrists and took anti-anxiety medication and anti-depressants.
My depression is mostly long gone, and while I still deal with GAD, I guess with life experience comes better coping skills.
I am strangely chill about the coronavirus mayhem. I am concerned for my friends and family who are over the age of 60, because I don’t want any of them to contract Covid 19 (Coronavirus), but I am not too worried about catching it myself and dying.
I figure, if I do contract the disease and die, I cannot do anything to change it. If I am hospitalized, maybe the medical staff can treat me and I can pull through, but if not, I may die. And I’m okay with that.
At this point the only thing that spikes my anxiety at all is not the virus but how the public is acting – people are hoarding supplies, leaving nothing for others, and people have broken into fist fights at Sam’s Clubs stores over food and toilet paper.
But the older I get, the more I understand certain biblical passages now more than I did when I was younger, such as this one (from Luke 12) – a person doesn’t have to be a Christian or believe in a deity to get some wisdom out of the gist of this:
Do Not Worry
22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.
24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!
25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!
29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.
Passages such as that one make more sense to me now than they did when I was growing up. Sitting around worrying about a virus isn’t going to do a thing to make your life better, so what’s the point in worrying about it?
If I find additional material about mental health in relation to Coronavirus, I will try to edit this post to add the information.
Here is a series of links from newspapers and magazines that discuss the covid19 virus (coronavirus) in light of mental health; some simply describe the situation, while others offer tips on how to deal with depression or anxiety, if one has either one.
What is it like to have an anxiety disorder in the time of coronavirus? My worst nightmare come to life – behind a paywall, but a free trial is available
A pandemic takes a unique toll on people with mental illnesses.
By Anagha Srikanth
If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 or the NAMI helpline at 800-950-NAMI (6264).
…But for some, the anxiety can rise to a clinical level during an outbreak. Lewis said people should be aware of symptoms including difficulty sleeping, changes in eating patterns, rapid changes in mood, inability to carry out required or necessary tasks, self-medication using alcohol and drugs and prolonged self-isolation.
“For those who may already struggle with feelings of isolation due to depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions, social distancing could increase those feelings of loneliness and isolation,” Lewis [Krystal Lewis, clinical psychologist at the National Institute of Mental Health] said in an email.
…”Ultimately, it is important to seek help from a professional to help manage ongoing, persistent anxiety and other difficulties,” Lewis said in an email.
But there are some measures mental health professionals suggest for both people with preexisting mental health issues and those without. One of the biggest ones is to watch your media consumption.
“Mass media coverage of a topic can have long standing and far-reaching effects. It is common for children and adults with health anxiety and generalized anxiety to be triggered by world events and news,” said Lewis in an email.
She and Brown both recommended setting limits for how often and how long you tune into media coverage of the coronavirus outbreak, as well as the sources you consult.
Brown said she checks the news once in the morning and then once in the evening, and even recommends turning off push notifications on your phone. ..
Other suggestions for self-care include:
-maintaining a routine
-journaling and writing down your worries
-talking to loved ones (by phone, text, social media or video) in a way that works for you
-meditative practices (such as using guided meditations and listening to calming music)
-taking walks (while avoiding large crowds)
-talking through your fears by challenging anxious, irrational thoughts
-disrupting the anxiety spiral by using techniques to bring you back into the present moment
-NAMI also offers online support groups and a “warmline,” a confidential, noncrisis emotional support telephone hotline staffed by peer volunteers who are in recovery.
It’s also important to check in on those you love, especially those who are most vulnerable to mental health illnesses. Brown said to look for signs that they have been taking care of themselves and the environment around them and to ask whether they’ve eaten recently.
“Don’t be afraid to ask people pointed questions, even about suicide,” she said.
…You can also find more information and resources about managing anxiety and stress at:
by Joel Achenbach
“Right now, people are feeling grief over the loss of routines, certainty, and a perception of themselves as being generally healthy and protected,” said psychiatrist Joshua Morganstein, chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Committee on Psychiatric Dimensions of Disasters.
He and other mental health experts say there are steps people can take — practical ones — to ease some of that anxiety and give a person a better sense of being in control of this chaotic situation. Some of the advice comes from research on natural disasters, mass shootings, terrorist attacks and other traumas.
Much of the professional advice is obvious but bears repeating, Morganstein said: “Things like getting good sleep, eating regularly, staying hydrated, exercising. When we take care of our body, with good sleep in particular, but certainly food and water, our ability to think clearly, our ability to solve problems, our ability to manage our emotions, are all optimized.”
Kathy HoganBruen, a Washington-based clinical psychologist specializing in anxiety disorders, echoes that advice: “Now is the time to start establishing some healthy habits.”
For example, start the day by getting exercise and fresh air in nature if possible. And a person feeling overwhelmed by the grim news might do better by limiting time spent following coronavirus bulletins.
“Really try to limit the news consumption or just staring at your phone and your computer, because for most of us that makes mental health worse rather than better,” she said.
…People with mental illnesses can be especially vulnerable in a time like this. About 1 in 5 adults in the United States experience a mental illness or disorder in any given year, Gordon said.
“For those with anxiety disorders, that concern [about the coronavirus] can become all-consuming,” Gordon said. “We’re all a little suspicious of others on the subway, on the street, if they’re coughing or they look sick. Imagine if you had schizophrenia — that concern or suspicion could turn into frank paranoia.”
This is also challenging for anyone suffering from depression. The lack of social engagement and the disruption of routines can worsen symptoms. People with mental illness need to make a plan for how they can continue with treatment and therapy, including contact with support groups and ensuring that they have a supply of medication.
HoganBruen said this pandemic creates a kind of “forced depression” because it disrupts plans for the future that normally give people hope.
…Figuring out what is a reasonable concern is not easy for anyone in a public health crisis like this, which is so full of unknowns. Morganstein said he avoids using the word “anxiety” or “panic” when discussing how people react to a crisis like this because it implies the reaction is excessive or inappropriate. And he cautions that a person in distress does not need to be told to be rational and logical: “Logic is often an ineffective antidote to emotion.”
But one thought is comforting: Everyone is affected by this. This is a time for communities to find common purpose, even if people are forced to stay apart.
by N. Morris
But mass panic is not helpful. Increased levels of stress and anxiety are the last things we need at a time like this, but if you are feeling anxious right now – know that you’re not alone.
Whether you have clinically diagnosed anxiety or not, being abruptly knocked off your normal routine and isolated from your social circles and support systems is bound to make you feel edgy.
Add that to our culture of inescapable rolling news and legitimate concerns for family members, and it’s likely you will feel your heart rate start to rise.
We asked different sections of the public to explain exactly why they’re feeling anxious right now, and their coping mechanisms for getting through the worst of it. [Please visit their page to read about how other people are coping with anxiety or depression]
…World Health Organization: Mental health advice
-Avoid watching, reading or listening to news that cause you to feel anxious or distressed; seek information mainly to take practical steps to prepare your plans and protect yourself and loved ones.
Seek information updates at specific times during the day once or twice.
-Stay connected and maintain your social networks. Even in situations of isolations, try as much as possible to keep your personal daily routines.
If health authorities have recommended limiting your physical social contact to contain the outbreak, you can stay connected via e-mail, social media, video conference and telephone.
-During times of stress, pay attention to your own needs and feelings. Engage in healthy activities that you enjoy and find relaxing. Exercise regularly, keep regular sleep routines and eat healthy food. Keep things in perspective.
…How to tackle coronavirus anxiety
There are practical steps you can take to keep your anxiety in check in these worrying times. We asked environmental psychologist Lee Chambers to walk us through some actionable pointers if you’re struggling with your mental health at the moment.
‘The strength of human connection can help to allay fears and reaffirms the bond we have with other humans on the planet.
We tend to ruminate less when we hear the voices of others.
‘I also advise to be very mindful of your source of information, especially when it comes to health. Stick to credible medical-centric information services, so you can avoid the opinions and misinformation that can fuel anxiety.’
Lee says that despite how quickly information is changing, it’s enough to check for updates with a credible source just twice per day.
‘Continually consuming information is likely to trigger more anxiety and is not beneficial to keeping yourself in an informed and relaxed space,’ says Lee.
….‘Find something you enjoy and do more of that,’ he adds. ‘It might be yoga, cooking, meditation, reading or watching insightful programmes. Eat the things you enjoy and stay in contact with your friends.
by Ethan Sacks
“Isolation is so devastating to our own mood because we’re left stuck with our own thoughts,” a psychotherapist said.
…The potential side effect of the crisis is something mental health professionals are scrambling to address amid the uncertainty of COVID-19, especially as health resources are diverted to the most immediate concerns.
The scale of those concerns in turn is precisely what makes this time an unprecedented stressor for even the most well adjusted among us.
…Physical activity is more imperative for those afflicted with mood disorders for a dose of serotonin — the neurotransmitter that helps regulate emotions.
That can include stepping into a backyard, and going for a walk around the block when it’s not crowded is also a boost. “If you’re not sick, going outside safely to get some vitamin D from sunlight and fresh air can be very helpful,” Roberts said.
Every little bit can help lower the potentially toxic effects of boredom, loneliness and anxiety.
…Many people with mental illness, already suffer daily with the effects of anxiety and depression. These diagnoses can already lead to being unable to be around other people and social isolation. They can lead to fears both rational and irrational. These fears can be represented in negative emotions and behaviors.
This is all without a virus pandemic involved.
Now, we add in a new virus on top of these already sometimes debilitating diagnoses. We pile on a heaping dose of media overload.
Even more, we have this pandemic become a political football.
And then we add in the shared panic of our fellow man creating a fear contagion.
Those with mental illness having all these things added to their daily struggles may suffer even more greatly than the general population.
The additional anxiety and fear may increase already negative behavior responses such as isolation, self-harm, and OCD type behaviors. The additional depression with added fear may increase negative thoughts and possibly even suicidal ideation.
(Read the remainder of that article here)
by J. Dibiec, March 16, 2020
As cases of COVID-19 proliferate, there’s a pandemic of fear unfolding alongside the pandemic of the coronavirus.
Media announce mass cancellations of public events “over coronavirus fears.” TV stations show images of “coronavirus panic shopping.” Magazines discuss attacks against Asians sparked by “racist coronavirus fears.”
Due to the global reach and instantaneous nature of modern media, fear contagion spreads faster than the dangerous yet invisible virus. Watching or hearing someone else who’s scared causes you to be frightened, too, without necessarily even knowing what caused the other person’s fear.
As a psychiatrist and researcher studying the brain mechanisms of social regulation of emotions, I frequently see in clinical and experimental settings how powerful fear contagion can be.
Fear contagion is an evolutionarily old phenomenon that researchers observe in many animal species. It can serve a valuable survival function.
…The amygdala, a structure buried deep within the side of the head in the brain’s temporal lobe, is key for responding to threats. It receives sensory information and quickly detects stimuli associated with danger.
Then the amygdala forwards the signal to other brain areas, including the hypothalamus and brain stem areas, to further coordinate specific defense responses.
These outcomes are commonly known as fright, freeze, flight or fight. We human beings share these automatic, unconscious behaviors with other animal species.
…Nevertheless, fear contagion is an effective way of transmitting defense responses not only between members of the same group or species but also across species.
Many animals, through evolution, acquired an ability to recognize alarm calls of other species. For example, bird squawks are known to trigger defense responses in many mammals.
…Fear contagion does not require direct physical contact with others. Media distributing terrifying images and information can very effectively spread fear.
Moreover, while antelopes on the savanna stop running once they’re a safe distance from a predator, scary images on the news can keep you fearful.
The feeling of immediate danger never subsides. Fear contagion didn’t evolve under the always-on conditions of Facebook, Twitter and 24-hour news.
…Tempering fear others transmit to you
There’s no way to prevent fear contagion from kicking into gear—it’s automatic and unconscious, after all—but you can do something to mitigate it. Since it’s a social phenomenon, many rules that govern social behaviors apply.
In addition to information about fear, information about safety can be socially transferred too. Studies have found that being in the presence of a calm and confident person may help overcome fear acquired through observation of others.
For instance, a child terrified by a strange animal will calm down if a calm adult is present.
This kind of safety modeling is especially effective when you have your eyes on someone close to you, or someone you depend on, such as a caretakeror an authority figure.
Also, actions matter more than words, and words and actions must match.
For example, explaining to people that there’s no need for a healthy person to wear a protective face mask and at the same time showing images of presumably healthy COVID-19 screening personnel wearing hazmat suits is counterproductive. People will go and buy face masks because they see authority figures wearing them when confronting invisible danger.
by Steven Taylor
In early 2019, I made a number of predictions about the next pandemic — and almost all of them have come true
If the Covid-19 pandemic seems unreal for you, it has been doubly surreal for me. For almost two years, I had been working on a book titled The Psychology of Pandemics, which was published in December 2019.
A few weeks after publication, Covid-19 emerged and the spread of infection reached pandemic proportions. In the final chapter of my book I had a section titled “A portrait of the next pandemic.”
Virtually everything described in that chapter has happened already. That chapter was originally written over a year before the world had encountered Covid-19.
Was the book prophetic, as some people claim? Not really — it was based on research.
The more I read about pandemics, the more I realised that pandemics were essentially psychological phenomena. Pandemics were not simply about some virus infecting people. Pandemics were caused and contained by the way that people behaved.
Pandemics are controlled only when people agree to do particular things, like covering their coughs, washing their hands, complying with social distancing, and getting vaccinated, if a vaccine is not available. If, for various psychological reasons, people refuse to do these things, then the pandemic will continue to spread.
The more I researched the psychology of pandemics, the more I realised that psychology is important in how a society reacts to pandemics.
…There are a couple of predictions in the book that have still to be tested: I’m hoping that in this pandemic, like past pandemics, there will be a rise in altruism, where people come together and support one another, as far as that is possible.
But I’m worried that in this pandemic, when a vaccine becomes available, people won’t bother to get vaccinated.
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