Let’s talk about depressive disorders. Several factors are overlapping in that substrate where emotions, uncertainty, fatigue, lack of control and even a sense of emptiness can seriously affect our mental balance. It is therefore important to prevent Covid-19 depression.
It would be nice to be able to say it won’t happen, to think that, as popular psychology says, every adversity makes us stronger and wiser. For many people it will certainly be so.
Neuroscience teaches us that some of us are more able to manage stress thanks to a more resilient and prepared attitude to this kind of situation.
But not all of us are equal, not all of us are born with this incredible resource which is the ability to face change, crisis, uncertainty. We must therefore prepare for the fact that at the end of the quarantine, when we enter the post-Coronavirus reality, there may be an increase in mood disorders.
COVID-19 is the risk of a new epidemic to be addressed
Some might say that epidemics act like a level: they make no distinction between social classes, nationalities or religion. Coronavirus is giving us a lesson that we will probably never forget. We are more vulnerable than we think.
It is possible that our life before the pandemic was not perfect, but perhaps, despite everything, we were happy without knowing it. We were, because we had a certain feeling of control. Because every day they looked alike and the anguish of such an uncertain tomorrow did not exist.
In a health emergency that is so much eroding our economy, it is inevitable to feel the stings of this vulnerability of ours.
A few weeks ago, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director general, in an article published in the Psychiatric Times, warned us that in addition to the spread of the infection, we must expect other phenomena.
COVID-19 could bring with it another epidemic, that of stress and anxiety disorders. The same that we are noticing in compulsive shopping, panic and anxiety in this situation of isolation.
The psychologists of the Center for the Science of Social Connection of the University of Washington are of the same opinion. When the infections drop and we return (to the extent possible) to normal, cases of depression will increase.
Why will depression increase?
To think that a crisis like the present one does not leave psychological consequences would be naive. We are already living them now.
Some of us have lost a loved one, others have lost their jobs or are worried about the future. We cannot neglect, then, those who were already facing an anxiety or depressive disorder or had just come out of it. In a dramatic situation like the present one it is common for these conditions to be reactivated. The situations that we could find in the post-Coronavirus era are worrying:
- A complicated emotional barometer. We will experience a range of emotions, from sadness to anger or irritability. Even despair.
- Uncertainty. The word we hear so much these days will be a leitmotiv.
- Economic instability. A factor that deeply feeds psychological disorders.
- Tiredness, helplessness, feeling of not having control over our reality.
- In some cases, we may even face an existential crisis.
These situations are part of life and we have probably experienced some of them a few times. However, when they are constant and overwhelm us for weeks or months, they favor the appearance of depression.
At that moment our ability to solve problems could decrease; insomnia, demotivation, chronic apathy will appear.
Can we prevent COVID-19 depression?
The risk of a new epidemic, this time of mental disorders exists. It is advisable, therefore, to immediately think of measures to prevent depression from Covid-19, but also to address it if it arises. It must be clear that each of us shows a personal and unique clinical picture. No depression is the same as another.
Everyone will process the situation as best they can, but we know that in a pandemic scenario, the main trigger for depression is environmental stress. We should therefore expect the following situations:
Isolation is an activator of depression, especially if spent alone or in the midst of family tensions. In these cases it is essential to solicit psychological support, which must always come from a qualified professional.
You need to learn how to manage daily stress and take care of any emerging emotion. What we silence today, tomorrow could give way to a strong state of impotence. So let’s take care of our emotions, let’s worry about how we feel here and now.
Those who have suffered a loss from Coronavirus must have access to a psychological help service.
Economic difficulties will be another trigger for disorders that undermine mental health. A factor to always keep in mind.
Last but not least, service networks need to be created. Well those between relatives and friends, but also indispensable professional networks close to those who may need them suddenly.
Direct support on a daily basis can certainly reduce emotional pain and prevent Covid-19 depression. Feeling that we are not alone and that, in a sense, we are all facing the same problems, it can be comforting.
COVID-19 hides the risk of a new epidemic and this time it could be our mental health. Let’s try to prepare for this emergency by acting immediately.