As dealing with Coronavirus continues to dominate America, studies have found that as many as one-third of Americans are dealing currently with depression and anxiety. In an article for Hartford Health Care, Dr. James O’Dea explains, “The spread of COVID-19 leaves people feeling out of control, which is uncomfortable and unnerving.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s findings, almost half of young adults between the ages of 18-29 (42%) are struggling with anxiety and/or depression––more than any other age-group. Within this group, college students have been especially affected.
Adults between the ages of 30-39 report the second highest levels of anxiety and depression. Surprisingly, senior adults from the age of 70 and above have experienced fewer issues with anxiety and depression that other age groups.
Factors that contribute to the increase of depression during COVID-19
Dr. Maurizio Fava, psychiatrist-in-chief at Massachusetts General Hospital, provides seven factors that have contributed to the increase of depression:
- Experiencing trauma from pandemic disease
- Grieving over the loss of lives
- Fear of becoming sick
- Social distancing
- Worry over financial issues, unemployment, and housing insecurity
- Losing the sense of community
- Reduced access to caregivers
Symptoms of high levels of anxiety and/or depression
Depression is not always easy to identify. Many of the symptoms can be seen as normal responses to the extreme changes in life through COVID-19. However, experiencing several symptoms could be indicative of high levels of anxiety and/or depression. In an article from the Mayo Clinic, these symptoms could include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Becoming disconnected from own feelings
- Being so tired that even small tasks are difficult
- Having changes in appetite, with reduced appetite and weight loss or increased cravings and weight gain
- Having trouble focusing, making decisions, or remembering things
- Having persistent body aches
- Not getting out of bed
- Sleep issues, such as insomnia or sleeping too much
- Feeling of worthlessness or guilt
- Frequent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, or suicide
Strategies to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on mental health
Author Ken Goodman, in an article for The Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggests ten strategies to reduce impact of COVID-19 on mental health:
Create distance from media reports that have focused non-stop of Coronavirus. That includes news, social media, Google, and internet research. The higher the level of anxiety, the greater the distance from all these avenues is necessary.
Do not engage in worrying over the details of life in the pandemic, especially over things we cannot control. Instead, begin to work on creative solutions for the things that can be controlled. That includes things like dealing with financial issues by finding loans, setting up partial payment schedules, or selling items through EBay or other online sales options.
Focus on the present odds. The fact is that, while the virus has claimed many lives, our risk of death is still very low.
Don’t over-react to physical symptoms. During cold and allergy seasons, it’s normal to experience coughs, post-nasal drips, and colds. Remind yourself of the normal realities of the season.
Focus on being productive and finding new ways to enjoy life. Do things you’ve wanted to do but didn’t have time. Organize your home, your files, or your phone. Clean out the basement or garage. Paint a room or a picture. Learn to do something you’ve always wanted to do through online tutorials. Meet up with friends on Zoom. The options are endless.
Engage in activities that reduce stress. Take a walk. Signup for an online yoga class. Journal daily about the things for which you are grateful. Practice meditation.
Focus on CDC Guidelines. Don’t push yourself to practice any guidelines beyond those of the CDC, such as washing your hands until they become red and chapped.
Find your sense of normal in this unnormal life. Follow your daily pre-Coronavirus routines, like when to go to bed and when to get up. Find ways to exercise outside the gym. Use a video platform to keep up with friends, even watching a movie together or sharing dessert. Attend church services online.
Be kind to yourself and those around you and have faith. Contact family members who are isolated. Help family who are struggling financially. Have faith that these conditions will not last forever.
Seek professional help. Don’t allow anxiety/depression to defeat you. Help is available and can be found locally or through telehealth. Check the Anxiety and Depression Association of America’s website for available therapists and psychiatrists.