Depression and Anxiety: Coronavirus Struggle

Depression and Anxiety: Coronavirus

Studies of past traumas lead to grim conclusions regarding depression and anxiety from coronavirus and surrounding measures

Millions of Americans are being impacted by the psychological fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftermath, and large numbers may experience emotional distress and be at increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety due to the coronavirus, according to a new article published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Carol North, MD, has studied survivors of disasters including the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina. Dr. North is calling on health care providers to monitor the psychosocial needs of their patients as well as themselves and fellow health care workers during this time.

“Almost everyone may experience some distress,” says North, who wrote the article with Betty Pfefferbaum, MD. 

Shortages of resources needed to treat patients, and public health measures such as shelter-in-place orders – along with the resulting financial upheaval – are among the “major stressors that undoubtedly will contribute to widespread emotional distress and increased risk for psychiatric illness associated with COVID-19,” the article says.

Certain groups will be more affected, according to the paper, including people who contract the disease, those at heightened risk including the elderly and people living with underlying health conditions.

Health care providers are also especially vulnerable to emotional distress during the pandemic, the paper continues, given their risk of exposure amid shortages of personal protective equipment, long work hours, and involvement in the “emotionally and ethically fraught” need to allocate scarce resources when treating patients.

While not directly comparable, many who went through other catastrophic events such as 9/11 or 1995’s Oklahoma City bombings developed depression as well as PTSD, says North. After 9/11, 26 percent of the attack’s survivors developed a new episode of major depression, according to an earlier study she co-authored. But COVID-19 is new territory, she emphasizes. “We haven’t studied depression in pandemics.”

SOURCE: World Pharma Digest

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