From the time the novel coronavirus appeared, governments and organizations put various measures in place to contain it. The most effective include sanitizing, social distancing, wearing PPEs, and quarantines. Although isolation plays a role in slowing the spread, it also makes things worse for people with or at risk of mental disorders.
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The Risks of Isolation on Mental Health
Health experts already expect a surge in cases of depression, anxiety, PTSD, and even suicide due to prolonged isolation. Just as with COVID-19, the health system isn’t adequately prepared to handle this surge. What’s more, not everyone eligible for treatment will seek or receive it. This situation has serious long-term implications.
According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 56% of US adults experience worry, stress, and other adverse mental effects. The national hotline for people suffering emotional distress has seen a nearly 900% increase in calls during the coronavirus pandemic, compared to the same period last year.
Of the trillions of dollars set aside for coronavirus relief through the CARES Act, the amount committed to mental healthcare is insufficient. Even before the pandemic began, 1 in 5 American adults suffered some form of mental disorder. The figure is likely to rise exponentially due to prolonged isolation.
Signs and Symptoms of Mental Illness during Isolation
Isolation causes loneliness, which can lead to more serious mental, emotional, and even physical health issues. Some of its symptoms and adverse effects include:
- Stress: The pandemic had many unexpected outcomes. They include job losses, minimal access to health facilities, gym closures, communication breakdown, and complicated housing situations. Isolation makes the situation worse because your mind focuses on these adversities.
- Depression: Although COVID-19 has affected everyone, some have suffered more. Maybe you caught the virus, or know someone who did. In some instances, it could have caused the death of a friend or family member. Such developments, coupled with loneliness, are enough to cause depression.
- Cognitive Decline: Research shows that lonely people are more likely to suffer disorders such as dementia. Social interactions are an important stage of cognitive development for all humans.
- Alcohol and Drug Abuse: Isolation causes boredom, which increases the likelihood of overindulging. Alcoholism and drug abuse can worsen mental disorders, such as depression.
- Erratic Sleep Patterns: Sleep deprivation can be both a result of and contributor to mental disorders. You’re more likely to have erratic sleep patterns if you also have anxiety, ADHD, depression among other conditions. The uncertainty caused by isolation makes it harder to sleep soundly.
- Personality Disorders: Schizoid personality disorder and borderline personality disorder are just two of the conditions that are linked to loneliness.
In extreme circumstances, isolation causes suicidal thoughts. When coupled with circumstances such as winter and the death of a loved one, it could result in serious mental problems. Loneliness can also lead to physical health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
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Who’s Most at Risk?
Although all of us deal with isolation and loneliness from time to time, some people are more prone to its negative effects. The elderly have been most affected by both the coronavirus and the resulting containment measures. Some already suffer from dementia and similar conditions, which are only made worse by isolation.
Children who suddenly can’t go to school or play with their friends are also likely to be affected. If they don’t understand the cause of this sudden isolation, conditions such as ADHD and anxiety can grow worse. Others are young adults, immigrants, and divorcees.
If you had some physical health problems, isolation might also affect you mentally. Restricted access to physical therapy facilities, medication, nurses, and other support structures may trigger depression and anxiety.
How to Survive Isolation?
Although it doesn’t completely solve the problem of isolation, technology can make the situation more bearable. Phone calls, texts, and video conferencing tools help you stay in touch with distant colleagues, friends, and relatives. You can also keep in touch through social media platforms.
Technology provides ways of passing time that distract you from destructive habits such as alcoholism and drug abuse. They include movie streaming, online games, and participating in live webinars. Try to organize fun activities for the entire family, such as game nights, treasure hunts, backyard obstacle courses, and water activities.
You can also do home workouts to help keep you in shape, both physically and mentally. Remember to check on your neighbors and other members of the community, especially the elderly and vulnerable. You can help them with errands such as buying groceries, picking medication, getting them reading materials, and delivering other essentials to their doorsteps. Your short visit or phone call might do wonders for their mental wellbeing.
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If you consistently experience anxiety, stress, irritability, mood swings, and related symptoms during isolation, it’s time to seek professional help. Mango Clinic’s competent and experienced physicians are skilled at making accurate diagnoses and creating effective treatment plans. Apart from mental disorders, we also treat a variety of health problems affecting both men and women.