This blog post was reviewed and approved for publication by Anjuli M. Shah D.O., a Board-certified psychiatrist at Apraku Psychiatry.
Back in 2020, we were collectively thrust into an unexpected chapter of human history as the COVID-19 pandemic changed our lives in countless ways. With its various stages of social restrictions and the reality of a world in constant uncertainty, COVID-19 left a lasting imprint on many aspects of our lives. Now, as we adapt to our post-pandemic reality, we cannot ignore the long shadow it has cast over our mental health landscape.
While for many, life has now returned to some semblance of normality, the echoes of the pandemic persist, particularly in the realm of mental health. The term ‘Long Covid’ has extended beyond the physical realm, also encapsulating the lingering psychological impacts. Many are facing a new wave of mental health challenges characterized by an increase in anxiety, depression, and stress-related disorders.
In this blog, we aim to untangle the complex web of how COVID-19 has affected mental health, its ongoing effects, and crucially, the steps we can take towards recovery. Together, let’s delve into understanding this profound impact, fostering empathy and highlighting resilience as we chart the path towards healing from the silent epidemic that has swept through our collective psyche.
The Hidden Impact — COVID-19 and the Surge in Mental Health Issues
The COVID-19 pandemic presented a double-edged sword, inflicting both direct physiological harm and indirectly impacting our mental wellbeing. As we navigated the choppy waters of constant news updates, fluctuating case numbers, and the constant fear of infection, it’s little wonder that anxiety levels skyrocketed. The social isolation resulting from quarantines and lockdowns further compounded these feelings, leading to a sharp rise in depressive symptoms.
Findings from numerous research studies suggest there has been a global escalation in the prevalence of mental health disorders. For instance, a study published by the Lancet in 2021 reported significant increases in anxiety and depression symptoms worldwide during the initial stages of the pandemic.
However, these issues did not recede as society began to reopen; instead, they continued to manifest, reflecting a ‘long tail’ of mental health problems associated with the pandemic.
A Closer Look at ‘Long Covid’
When we speak of the COVID-19 pandemic’s consequences, it’s easy to focus on the immediate physical health problems posed by the virus. However, the term ‘Long Covid’ has entered our lexicon, representing the persistence of symptoms and issues even after recovery from the acute phase of the illness.
Initially, ‘Long Covid’ was defined as a collection of physical symptoms — ranging from fatigue and muscle weakness to respiratory issues — that persisted weeks or even months after the initial recovery. However, this definition has expanded to encompass a broader scope, including the enduring psychological impacts of the disease.
Patients who have been through the harrowing experience of a severe COVID-19 infection often report feelings of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The fear and uncertainty associated with the illness, coupled with the fear of re-infection or long-term health implications, can have a profound psychological impact. This state of constant worry and fear may persist long after physical recovery, leading to a condition sometimes referred to as ‘post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection’ (PASC).
This expanded understanding of ‘Long Covid’ reflects a more holistic view of health. It acknowledges that the impacts of a disease are not limited to its physical symptoms; they also include its effects on mental and emotional wellbeing. For some, the pandemic may have created a heightened state of hyper-vigilance that leads to chronic anxiety and stress, impacting their ability to return to normal life even as society has reopened.
Towards a Healthy Mental State
The journey towards a healthy mental state, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, is one that requires patience, compassion, and the right strategies. Here are some practical steps for managing and improving mental health during these challenging times:
Finally, it’s essential to keep in mind that you’re not alone in this journey. Many people are grappling with the aftermath of the pandemic, and it’s okay to seek help and support.
Conclusion: Paving the Way to Wellness
The aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the critical importance of mental health. While the journey towards improved well-being may seem daunting, every step taken matters. Recognizing our feelings, practicing self-care, retaining patience with ourselves, and seeking professional assistance when we need it are key elements on this road to recovery.
The events of the past few years have shifted our lives tremendously, yet they have also initiated much-needed dialogue around mental health. As we move beyond the pandemic and navigate our new reality, it’s crucial that we seize this opportunity for change. Together, we can work towards healing, resilience, and a mentally healthier future for all.
This blog post is brought to you by Apraku Psychiatry.
Apraku Psychiatry is a private practice offering video appointments with Board-certified psychiatrists licensed in multiple states. More blog articles can be found here. To schedule an appointment with one of our psychiatrists, patients can complete the online booking form.