COVID-19 has been unbelievably difficult on our collective mental health. I believe very few people have escaped the last fourteen months without experiencing some level of depression or anxiety. Building off of a previous article that sought to explain the neurological effects of COVID, I’d like to take a moment to examine the psychological and psychiatric effect this virus has had on us on both an individual and societal level.
First, let’s examine the virus’ effect at the individual level. Individuals who contracted COVID reported increased levels of depression, anxiety, and delirium (a serious disruption in brain function that presents itself as confused thinking, disorientation, and trouble with emotional regulation). The severity of these psychiatric effects could be predicted by the severity of the disease. These symptoms are thought to be brought on by extreme systemic inflammation (if you would like to learn more about inflammation and disease see: Mind-Body Connection II (Banerjee & Viswanath, 2020; Mayo Clinic, 2020). COVID-19 Additionally, a study that examined outcomes of over 230,000 individuals who tested positive for COVID-19, found that around 8.6% would go on to develop their first mood/psychotic disorder and about 7.1% would develop their first anxiety disorder in 6 months following their infection (Taquet et al., 2021).
Seeing this data can be a little overwhelming, but I also want to caution you against looking at this data without the proper perspective! While these numbers are incredibly high, it is important to note that these studies were observational not experimental. This means that scientists did not manipulate any variables to test a hypothesis, rather, they examined the existing data and looked for correlations. Correlation DOES NOT equal causation. We know the number of people who developed their first psychiatric condition in the first 6 months after contracting COVID, but this doesn’t tell us the whole story. The pandemic has been an incredibly stressful time. Between widespread civil unrest, depletion of resources, lost jobs, eliminated social support, and many other social factors most definitely played a role in the development or worsening of psychiatric conditions during the pandemic (However, we will talk more about this in COVID Consequences Part III).
With all that out of the way, this is the part of the article where we encourage you all to get vaccinated! As you can see based on what we just talked about, COVID-19 can have real, life-altering effects on your well-being. We are not telling you this to scare you. We are telling you this because we care very deeply about each and every one of you and want to prevent you from having to take on the burden of illness. If you are unsure of where or how to get vaccinated and you live in the United States, text your zip code to 438829 or call 1-800-232-0233 and you will be provided with a list of locations near you that offer appointments!