The Mental Health Consequences of COVID-19

The Mental Health Consequences of COVID-19

Mar 30, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting quarantine orders have had an unprecedented amplification of mental health consequences, and these consequences will likely become the most urgent public health challenge worldwide for decades to come.

Stay-at-home and global lock-down orders have resulted in social isolation, loneliness, lack of activity, increase in binge-watching TV (associated with mood and sleep disturbances, fatigue, impaired self-regulation and overeating), increased access to alcohol, more online gambling, panic-buying, phobic anxiety (fear of illness, fear of negative economic effects), more calls to helplines with worsening anxiety, and decreased family and social support. Social media exposure was associated with increased odds of anxiety and combined depression and anxiety. Loss of jobs and income resulted in unemployment and financial insecurity which have affected access to health care, including mental health care. It’s no wonder that every study published to date has shown increases in self-reported symptoms of anxiety, depression, substance use, trauma/stress-related symptoms, and most unfortunate, suicidal ideation.

Doubtful that there is a human being in this world who hasn’t felt the mental effects of the pandemic in one way or another, even if there wasn’t enough of a downturn to seek help from a physician or other health care clinician. An increase in alcohol sales and alcohol use in the home has been recorded, which could potentially have increased alcohol use disorder and have affected the domestic violence rates. Women who were previously victims of domestic violence have suffered more than they have in the past. In the US, individual states have reported increases in domestic violence cases ranging from 21-35%. Women had reduced options for escape and less social support during quarantine orders. In the UK, deaths from domestic violence more than doubled with the average rate in the previous 10 years.

Interestingly, in the initial stages of the pandemic quarantine, many states across the US reported double digit decreases in reports to child abuse hotlines. To understand this, we need to remember that in the US, 20% of reports to abuse/neglect centers are made by educational personnel. With distance-learning in place, our prime reporters are no longer serving as the children’s main advocates. We have a situation with a potential abuse and neglect crisis with no voice for the children.

And while we may not be completely surprised about the effect of the pandemic on global mental health, the discussion of the risk of COVID in those with pre-existing mental health conditions has been scantily discussed. Metabolic syndrome is a combination of high cholesterol, high blood sugar, obesity/excess abdominal fat, and high blood pressure. With the exception of the effect on weight, there are typically no symptoms associated with these conditions. This cluster of conditions together create a syndrome that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. However, it is now also considered to be a composite predictor of COVID-19 lethal outcome, increasing the odds of mortality by the combined effects of its individual components. This is important because those with pre-existing mental health conditions have higher rates of metabolic syndrome. Data on the interplay between metabolic syndrome and mental health conditions is plentiful, going back decades. This is a concern even in the age of vaccines, as there is data to suggest that vaccines are less effective in those with obesity or metabolic syndrome.

While this all seems quite disheartening, a favorable component brought about in the pandemic is telehealth. While there were physicians providing this type of care pre-pandemic, it was typically uncommon and almost never covered by commercial insurance. Nearly all insurance carriers cover telehealth and therefore many more physicians, including psychiatrists like myself, have switched their practice model to telehealth. We have found that telepsychiatry is comparable to face-to-face services in terms of reliability of treatment outcome and has shown to deliver high patient satisfaction. It is preferred for patients with anxiety disorders and now, even with lock-down orders beginning to soften, is much more preferred by those patients who have difficult or long work hours, or feel uncomfortable visiting a psychiatric practice in person. If you’re still not getting the help you need, reach out and make an appointment.
Call (844) 547-7924 or visit www.lifetimeinsight.com

Call (844) 547-7924 or visit www.lifetimeinsight.com

Sarit

President and Board Certified Psychiatrist, Lifetime Insight, LLC

Founder of Lifetime Insight, Sarit Hovav, MD is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. She graduated from medical school with honors, completed Internal Medicine internship at Beth Israel Medical Center, and then went on to complete a postdoctoral fellowship in Brain Stimulation and Neuroimaging in Mental Illness at UCLA’s prestigious Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior where she participated in a variety of clinical trials and published in leading peer-reviewed medical journals. She then completed a Psychiatry residency at the combined program of Creighton University/University of Nebraska Medical Center. Out of residency training she was immediately hired as a Medical Director for Behavioral Medicine and then opened her own practice in Omaha which was highly successful, treating a variety of conditions in a variety of patient populations, including many of her own colleagues, becoming known as the “doctor to doctors”. Dr. Hovav is now practicing in Orange County via telehealth, where she can continue to provide her expertise to patients all over CA as well as her other states of licensure. Visit lifetimeinsight.com for more information on Dr. Hovav and getting an appointment.