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Don’t Underestimate the Psychological Impact of COVID-19

Bored. Frustrated. Scared. Tired. Angry. Irritable. Worried. Depressed. Restless. Anxious.

Do any of these sound like you? The current coronavirus pandemic has touched us all, and the stress seems to be increasing right along with the number infected.

You may be fearful that you or someone you love will contract COVID-19. Concerns about the virus can result in acute stress symptoms, such as intrusive thoughts, sleep problems, difficulty concentrating, anxiety, and irritability. These symptoms are even more pronounced in those with a loved one who has contracted the virus. Those who have lost someone to COVID-19 have the additional burden of grief.

Most of us are under various levels of quarantine. Despite the humorous Facebook and Instagram memes about saving the world by being a couch potato, quarantine has significant psychological consequences. This is especially true when quarantine is forced and when information and the expected duration of quarantine is unclear. The sad reality is that these mental health effects can last long after the quarantine has ended.

Parenting is really difficult right now! Many kids, and even teens, don’t understand why they can’t go to their friends’ houses and do many of the other fun things that they enjoy. Parents struggle to explain the current global situation to their children in a way that they understand. This may be particularly challenging for parents of children with special needs like autism. Many school districts have not yet set up a remote learning curriculum, so parents are struggling with keeping their children from losing learned material and falling behind. Divorced parents are finding it harder to navigate custody orders and co-parenting. Guilt and feelings of inadequacy are being reported by more and more parents.

Relationships and marriages are being tested during this crisis. Many couples are struggling to adjust to suddenly working from home and spending much more time together. New negotiations are happening regarding household chores and other responsibilities. Disagreements abound over various topics, such as finances, children, and even how strictly to follow quarantine recommendations.

In the space of a few weeks, millions of Americans have lost their jobs. Of those still employed, there seem to be two main groups: those who have had to suddenly adapt to working from home, and those who must still go to work and face varying levels of infection risk. Financial loss and an uncertain future results in anxiety and depression.

While all of this sounds awfully gloomy, it’s important that we recognize the psychological impact of this virus and all the changes and circumstances related to it. All of us are affected in some way, and if you have a pre-existing psychiatric condition, the effects may be much stronger. We can only begin to address the psychological consequences of the pandemic once we acknowledge that it exists.

If you're struggling, consider online counseling. Mental health providers across the nation have begun offering remote counseling by telehealth, and your health insurance likely covers it. Start with a local counselor so that you can go visit them in person when quarantine restrictions are lifted.

Your mental health is as important as your physical health, and both are more important than ever.


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