How Is COVID-19 Impacting Mental Health

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For those who are not aware, the respiratory virus COVID-19 has affected the lives of countless people all around the world. And the United States is no exception. The virus, which is spread primarily through upper respiratory secretions, such as airborne droplets caused by a cough or sneeze, has contributed to more than 7 million confirmed coronavirus cases in America. Of those, an estimated 205,000 Americans have lost their lives to the virus. It is also worth noting that COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus, has had a significant impact on the country’s economy. According to a study published by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the U.S. economy shrank at an estimated 32.9 percent annual rate between April and June. Coincidentally, this is around the same time the country when into lockdown, forcing numerous businesses to shutter and millions to file for unemployment.

How COVID-19 Has Impacted the Health of Thousands of People in America

Aside from a crippling economy, the novel coronavirus has contributed to numerous physical and mental illnesses in the United States. One of the most commonly reported health problems among those who currently have or previously contracted the virus but recovered is difficulty breathing. To understand why this is the case, it helps to know a little more about what happens when the coronavirus invades the body. Studies show that once the virus invades healthy cells via ACE2 receptors, it continues to replicate itself throughout the body while destroying those cells in the process. Eventually, the virus makes its way to the lungs and compromises the respiratory system.

The respiratory symptoms that an individual might experience depends on whether the virus primarily attacks the upper or lower respiratory system. Some of the most common symptoms associated with an upper respiratory infection brought on by COVID-19 include nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, muscle aches, and headaches. Conversely, symptoms commonly associated with a lower respiratory infection caused by the virus include a severe cough, increased mucous production, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and wheezing. Not surprisingly, these various symptoms can make breathing exceedingly challenging for those who develop the coronavirus. Of course, breath problems are not only health issues that individuals face if they contract this virus. Many have also complained of mental health problems, according to several studies.

Mental Illness and the Novel Coronavirus

Along with breathing difficulty and other physical health problems, the coronavirus has played a role in the development of mental health disorders for many people in America, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And those who already had an existing mental illness reported that their symptoms worsened after contracting the virus. The CDC study revealed that younger adults, especially those who are essential workers or tasked with caring for elderly friends or family members, reported feeling stressed, anxious, or depressed as a result of the coronavirus. What’s more, many of these same individuals admitted to turning to drugs, alcohol, or both to cope with these negative feelings. It is also worth noting that many adults, both young and old, have reported struggling with suicidal ideations. Indeed, the coronavirus as impacted just about every aspect of human life in America and, arguably, around the world as many countries have reported similar findings.

A Closer Look at the Study on Mental Illness Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

To fully understand the impact that the coronavirus has had on mental illness in America, it helps to take a closer look at statistical data compiled by the CDC. The data shows that feelings of anxiety and depression almost doubled between April and June of 2020 compared to the same timeframe in 2019. In nearly all of these cases, these negative feelings were attributed to mandatory stay-at-home orders and social distancing. Of course, this is not too surprising as most people are inherently social. Therefore, forced isolation and limited contact with friends and family would eventually take a toll on those who do not have these disorders, let alone those who have been dealing with them for years. In a second CDC study, which ran from the 24th to 30th of June 2020, researchers found that nearly 14 percent of study participants age 18 and over admitted to using drugs or alcohol to cope with feelings of anxiety and depression brought by COVID-19. Those who were unable to find relief from feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation admitted to thinking about committing suicide.

Researchers Discuss the Link Between COVID-19 and Suicidal Ideation in America

In addition to anxiety and depression, the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in more people entertaining the notion of taking their own life. Before taking part in the CDC study, about 25 percent of participants age 18 to 24 reportedly had thoughts of committing suicide. And about 10 percent of participants over the age of 24 admitted the same. The factors that contributed to or intensified feelings of anxiety, depression, and isolation, which eventually culminated in suicidal ideations among study participants included the following:

  • Fearing that a friend or loved one would contract COVID-19
  • An inability to comfort a friend or loved one that contracted COVID-19
  • Not being able to cope with feeling isolated
  • An existing mental illness made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Feelings of grief brought on by losing a friend or family member to COVID-19

It is worth noting that cases of domestic violence have also been on the rise in America due to stay-at-home orders, which were enforced across America to limit the spread of the virus. And while this may have worked to some extent, it also contributed to an uptick in domestic violence cases. Several studies show that a large percentage of women abused by their significant other amid the coronavirus pandemic have thought about suicide. Several studies show that a large percentage of women that were repeatedly abused by their significant other amid the coronavirus pandemic thought about committing suicide. While we are on the topic, it should be noted that one of Massachusetts’ leading hospitals recently reported a marked year-over-year increase in intimate partner violence cases involving women. And in many of those cases, mental illness and excessive alcohol consumption were contributing factors in men taking their frustrations out on women.

Bottom Line

In summary, the novel coronavirus has had an overarching negative effect on America, especially when it comes to mental illness. Fortunately, there are organizations that individuals can turn when they feel like their negative thoughts and emotions are too much to bear. Some of these organizations include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the National Alliance on Mental Illness, for example.

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