How Has COVID-19 Impacted the Mental Health of Individuals Around the World?

How COVID-19 is Affecting Mental Health

Is there a link between mental health disorders and COVID-19? This an important question to consider, even now more than a year after the pandemic began. That is true because COVID’s personal and social effects have added a tremendous amount of strain to everyday life. In turn, high levels of everyday stress are known for their potential to harm your mental well-being.

In the past year, researchers from across the globe have studied how COVID-19 is affecting mental health. The results of their work show that the pandemic’s emotional and psychological impact is widespread. In fact, it appears to be contributing to a range of problems. Here, we take a closer look at the connection between COVID and various types of mental health issues.

The Connection Between Chronic Stress and Mental Health Problems

All people feel stress at one time or another. This is a normal response to certain common situations you encounter throughout your day. Why do you feel stress? As a rule, it occurs when your situation changes in some unwanted way or when your norms are challenged.

Under the influence of stress, your body undergoes a chemical transformation. Specifically, it produces hormones that trigger your “fight-or-flight” response. The most well-known of these stress hormones is probably adrenaline. When it enters your system, adrenaline boosts your energy levels and makes you more alert. The result is an improved ability to act quickly and respond to emergencies.

Limited amounts of stress can be beneficial. That is because they can motivate you to take action and better your circumstances. But your mind and body can only handle so much stress at one time. If it lingers or occurs frequently, you never get to recover from the changes it makes in your system.

Your system has a limited ability to endure the effects of stress hormones. When its capacity is overloaded, things begin to go wrong. One possible result is a reduction in your sense of mental well-being.

Potential Effects of Stress on Your Mental Health

If you don’t have the opportunity to escape from stress, you may start to feel a variety of unpleasant feelings. For example, you may feel:

  • Sad
  • Angry
  • Fearful
  • Upset
  • Worried
  • Helpless
  • Hopeless

You may also find yourself losing your normal ability to feel or process emotion. A range of additional stress symptoms can also have a negative impact on your mental health. That includes such things as:

  • Insomnia
  • Bad dreams
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • An inability to focus
  • Poor decision-making

If you continue to experience long-term stress, you may end up developing a diagnosable mental illness. Illnesses linked to chronic stress include major depression and PTSD. They also include panic disorder and other anxiety disorders.

What Links the Pandemic to Mental Health Issues?

Several issues linked to the pandemic can have a negative impact on your mental health. Perhaps the number one concern is fear of being infected and becoming severely ill or dying. Other things that may make you feel more mentally vulnerable include:

  • Fears about your loved ones’ health and safety
  • Limits on your ability to make social contact
  • Isolation from friends or family
  • Job loss
  • Loss of income
  • Disruption of important goods and services
  • A general decrease in social stability

Misinformation circulating on social media can also have a significant harmful effect.

Mental Health Disorders and COVID-19

Pandemics are, by their very nature, widespread events that disrupt your daily routine. At their worst, the stress they produce can shake a society’s sense of normalcy to its core. With this in mind, it is no wonder that mental well-being tends to drop when pandemics appear.  The COVID-19 pandemic is not an exception to the rule.

Some of the worst stress is found in people whose jobs place them at the frontline of the pandemic. That includes professionals such as:

  • Emergency room personnel
  • Other doctors and nurses
  • EMTs
  • Firefighters
  • Police officers

These people are at-risk because they often spend hours a day witnessing the severe health effects of COVID. Trauma is also widespread among the families of the millions of people who have died from COVID worldwide.

But when examining how COVID-19 is affecting mental health, it is also crucial to cast a wider net. That is true because of the pandemic’s wider societal impact.

The situation in the U.S. serves as a good example. In March 2020, 32% of Americans said that spreading pandemic was harming their mental health. Just four months later, that number had climbed to 53%. In the following months, fewer people have been reporting problems. However the drop has only been slight, with almost half of the country still negatively affected well into 2021.

Who is most likely to experience the indirect mental strain of the pandemic? In America, the most severely affected groups are:

  • Young adults in their late teens and 20s
  • Mothers
  • Women

Other affected groups worldwide include school-age children, college students and hospitality workers.

Specific Mental Health Disorders and COVID-19

How is COVID-19 affecting mental health when it comes to diagnosable illnesses? In the U.S., the pandemic is linked to increases in the symptoms of several mental health conditions. That includes:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders
  • PTSD
  • Acute stress disorder
  • Substance use disorders involving alcohol or drugs

There have also been increases in the number of people thinking about suicide. Suicidal thinking can affect you whether or not you have a specific mental health diagnosis.

What about mental health disorders and COVID-19 in the rest of the world? Not everyone defines mental disorders in the same way, so it’s hard to provide an exact answer to this question. Still, it is possible to get a good overview of what’s happening.

Researchers from a number of countries have reported increasing mental health issues among their people. Examples of these countries include China, India, the U.K. and Greece. What issues are being reported? The list of pandemic-related mental health issues includes:

  • Higher levels of moderate and severe anxiety
  • Symptoms of long-term trauma exposure
  • Increases in suicidal thoughts and behaviors
  • An uptick in feelings of depression

There are also reports of increases in cases of stress-related domestic violence.

Breaking the Link Between Mental Health Disorders and COVID-19

Can you do something about how COVID-19 is affecting mental health? The answer to that question is yes. The CDC recommends taking certain steps to decrease your daily stress levels. One big thing you can do is take periodic breaks from the news and social media. This can help you avoid overloading your mind with pandemic-related information. It can also help you avoid unfounded rumors and purposeful misinformation campaigns.

It is also important to look after your physical health. That is true because poor physical support can make you more susceptible to the effects of stress. Specific actions you can take include:

  • Getting regular exercise
  • Devoting plenty of time to sleep
  • Eating a nutritious diet
  • Cutting back on alcohol and tobacco use
  • Steering clear of all forms of drug abuse
  • Meditating or using other physical stress management techniques

If you are suffering from a lack of social contact, do what you can to connect with your loved ones. Also, try to reserve time in your day for your favorite hobbies or activities.

Seeking Help

Some people are not just wondering how COVID-19 is affecting mental health. Instead, they have already developed a diagnosable mental health condition. If this is true for you, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. That way, you can get your symptoms under control and start the recovery process without any delay.

If you are currently experiencing a mental health crisis, you may need immediate help. Sources of crisis assistance recommended by the National Institute of Mental Health include:

  • The Crisis Text Line
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
  • Veterans Crisis Talk

If you are not in a crisis situation, your doctor is a good place to start when looking for help. Today, doctors are trained to recognize the symptoms of mental illness. They also know how to refer you for treatment to a mental health specialist.

Some mental health programs are only designed to treat symptoms of non-substance-related mental illness. However, other programs treat both substance problems and separate mental illnesses. This is important, because many people affected by mental illness also have drug or alcohol problems. By receiving help for both issues in the same facility, you can simplify the overall process of treatment.

Learn More About Mental Health Disorders and COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is a once-in-a-lifetime source of worldwide stress and disruption. No matter where they live, people from all walks of life have had to deal with its many effects. There is an established connection between certain cases of mental health disorders and COVID-19. Fortunately, if you are struggling as a result of the pandemic, you have options for immediate and long-term help.

To learn more about how COVID-19 is affecting mental health, just contact the specialists at Emerald Isle. We are also your source for the treatment of mental health problems, as well as substance problems. Our expert care and customized plans will help you restore your health and well-being.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – Office on Women’s Health: Stress and Your Health                                                                                

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Coping With Stress

International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction: The Mental Health Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic Across Different Cohorts                 

Irish Journal of Psychological Medicine: Mental Health and the COVID-19 pandemic

KFF Polling: Mental Health Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic – An Update

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Mental Health, Substance Use and Suicidal Ideation During the COVID-19 Pandemic – United States, June 24 – 30, 2020

National Institute of Mental Health: Help for Mental Illnesses