“When is this all going to end?” This is a question that many psychologists and mental health experts around the world are asked by by their clients. This goes to show the effects which the compulsory social restrictions prompted by the spread of the deadly coronavirus disease is having on people’s mental health.
“That question creates a lot of anxiety,” Amelia Aldao, a psychologist and anxiety expert told HuffPost. “This uncertainty we’re all experiencing makes us seek more reassurance and certainty. Because that’s not possible, it just makes us feel more anxious.”
Regardless of your mental and emotional well-being prior to the pandemic, Psychologists worry that the pandemic and quarantine will have long-reaching effects on people’s mental health.
Below are some predicted long-term effects of prolonged social distancing:
1. Some people might develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD):
The coronavirus pandemic is a particularly traumatic experience for a number of reasons, Aldao said, including fear of catching the virus and the economic impact on people. She also said social distancing measures can alter people’s mental health in a profound way.
“There’s an inherent grief that comes with social distancing and how our social lives have changed drastically and will continue to change over time,” Aldao said. “Plus, again, there’s that additional element that makes this crisis particularly traumatic: We don’t know when it’s going to end.
2. Anxiety over going out and Agoraphobia may become common:
We’ll likely see increased rates of anxiety, with more and more of us worried about our health and safety going back out in public again. (“If coronavirus gets worse ― or if we face another novel virus in the future — will I get sick? Will my family get sick?”)
For some people, the anxiety may develop into a mental health condition: Agoraphobia. People with this particular anxiety disorder feel a deep fear over leaving their homes ― or any other safe place ― and finding themselves in an area that may cause panic or make them feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.
3. Some people may develop depression from lack of social connections:
Social distancing can result in a decline in both perceived social support (how much support we believe we’re getting from close friends and family) and received social support (how much quantifiable social support we’re actually getting).
4. Kids may experience long-term mental health effects, too.
The potential mental health effects of COVID-19 will last much longer than the pandemic itself.
That’s why each national government needs to put in place economic, social and mental health safety nets to protect the most vulnerable.
On a personal level, you can take action to address some of your concerns before they balloon into something worse. In moments when you’re worrying about what the coming months might look like, Aldao suggests keeping your focus on two things: the immediate future ― your plans for the week or weekend, for example ― and the very distant post-social distancing future.
“I’ve been telling my clients to focus on very long-term goals,” she said. “For instance, what they want to do with their career in three years or what type of long-term relationship are they interested in having.”
“Also, I’d say building habits and routines is a great way of adding predictability to our lives and thus feel less uncertainty, which in turn makes us feel less anxious,” Aldao added.
While social distancing, lean into your support system. Sure, sometimes joining another Zoom call feels like just another item on your to-do list (and obviously, it can’t compete with in-person gatherings), but you’ll likely feel a lot better about the state of things after talking to your loved ones.
The pandemic is certain to change the way we function ― but it doesn’t have to change the lasting bonds you have with the people you love if you harness all the technology that’s available.
If your stress worsens, consider talking to a professional. Since traditional in-person therapy isn’t possible right now, many are turning to teletherapy ― videoconferencing with a mental health expert ― to get help.
Stay safe and we will beat this!