The Coronavirus Outbreak's Impact on Mental Health

The Coronavirus Outbreak’s Impact on Mental Health

The coronavirus outbreak has and will impact everyone’s mental health in some way.

I know myself, I’ve been oscillating between feeling angry, to then suddenly feeling sad, to then being overly optimistic, to then sometimes completely “forgetting” about the COVID-19 crisis.

I have to admit, my favourite mental state is when I either temporarily “forget” about the COVID-19 outbreak or when I’m overly optimistic. However, I am acutely aware both of these ways of coping are completely unhelpful. Whilst they allow for a “mental vacation” from “covid worries”, they delay our minds ability to process change, which leads to helpful behavioural adaptation – e.g. developing a healthy and rewarding indoor routine.

So whilst emotions, such as anger, sadness and anxiety, may be unpleasant, they are necessary to adapting to change.

During significant change and loss, most people feel varying degrees of emotions and oscillate between:

  • Anger and frustration. For example, you may feel angry at how the coronavirus outbreak impacts daily living or frustration towards the governments response.
  • Anxiety and fear. You may fear catching the coronavirus or you may feel uncomfortable living with uncertainty in your future.
  • Low mood and hopelessness. For example, you may feel sad and flat, because you have few future activities planned or your years’ goals have been curbed by the virus outbreak.
  • Denial and avoidance by ignoring or minimising the problem. For example, you may convince yourself the outbreak will soon blow over or believe you’re immune from the virus.
  • Bargaining for change. For example, you may believe a vaccine will be developed sooner than 12-18 months, despite this clear public timeline.

These emotions are all normal healthy emotions. In fact, if you give yourself permission to experience these emotions, you should return to feeling your typical self again in a few weeks to a few months. Humans are surprisingly resilient in their ability to adapt to change, but part of adapting requires emotional processing.

However, some people during the COVID-19 crisis will struggle to bounce back in their emotional and mental wellbeing.

For some people, the COVID-19 crisis may push their resilience to the limit if they have already faced other recent life struggles. For example, if you were already struggling with relationship difficulties or suffering from work stress, then the COVID-19 outbreak may be the “straw that broke the camel’s back” – and depression or anxiety may ensue. Or, perhaps you’ve always had a “little bit” of anxiety and the COVID-19 outbreak just “tips you over the edge” into experiencing general anxiety disorder or social anxiety disorder. Or, if you were already socially isolated, you may find further social restrictions leads to depression. Or, if you have always been a “germ phob”, the COVID-19 outbreak may propell your fears into OCD.

For people with already poor mental health, the COVID-19 outbreak undoubtedly creates many challenges. In particular, the impact of the outbreak can worsen mental health symptoms, for example:

  • Self-isolation can increase both depression and anxiety (particularly social anxiety)
  • Hygiene and infection control practises increase hyper-vigilant behaviours and anxiety or OCD
  • Threat of contracting COVID-19 can escalate health anxiety
  • Self-isolation can worsen relationship difficulties within the family or a couple
  • Financial strain increases stress and anxiety
  • Reduced work and activity can affect self-esteem
  • Poor routine can lead to reduced motivation and depression
  • Social isolation can increase unhelpful ways of coping, such as substance abuse or binge eating

How to seek psychological help during the coronavirus?

If you’re afraid to leave home, fortunately most psychologists are offering online telehealth support via phone or video consultations. You may also be entitled to a Medicare rebate for online consultations. Most psychology clinics are also remaining open, as seeing a psychologist is seen as an “essential service”.

To see a psychologist for support during the coronavirus outbreak you can make an appointment directly with a local psychology practice.

How can Peaceful Mind Psychology help during the coronavirus outbreak?

We are offering Telehealth and online therapy support during the coronavirus outbreak. Our team of psychologists based in Melbourne are all professional and warm, making the process of seeing a psychologist online very comfortable. Contact us today to be personally matched to a psychologist who suits your personality and mental health needs.