Hard gets even harder: Mental health of people with pre-existing conditions during COVID-19
The Coronavirus disease attacks our immune system where people who got infected experience mild to moderate respiratory illnesses and some recover without major clinical treatment. But the virus does not only attack the immune system of a person but rather the anxiety associated with this affects one’s mental condition as anxiety seems to increase with people who experience flu-like symptoms during the pandemic (Chatterjee, Barikar C, & Mukherjee, 2020).
People who have pre-existing mental health disorders before the onset of COVID-19 are experiencing increased severity of their symptoms as the impact of COVID-19 precipitates feelings of fear, anxiety, panic, loneliness, and guilt. As the implementation of quarantine starts in order to lessen the spread of the virus, people are forced to stay, work, and study at home creating small spaces for everyone at home. This adds to the anxiety of people who are used to managing their mental health conditions outside their houses. People with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder may be at higher risk because with the scare of transmitting or getting the virus, it is necessary to properly wash hands and it can be crucial for them and might increase their contamination obsession and sanitary compulsions. While people with Depressive Disorders might experience an increase in their cortisol level because of changes in social rhythm, daily routine, and stress within the environment which results in aggravation of depressive symptoms. Moreover, for people with mental health conditions, the stress and anxiety brought by the pandemic are really evident and life-changing which may lead to other serious problems like PTSD or even lead to suicidal ideation and attempts as it is much harder for them to control and manage their emotions and actions.
Given this situation, it is much harder for them to function in their everyday living compared to their normal routine in which they might have coping strategies. Access to their mental health care provider or practitioners might also be affected by the pandemic therefore, their pre-existing mental health condition could worsen at any time without a proper and immediate response. One of the platforms that can be utilized to eliminate these problems in terms of accessibility is imposing and improving teleconsultation in which they are provided with healthcare services and essential drugs to ensure that their mental health condition will not get worse during the pandemic. In addition, giving importance to mental health professionals, counselors, practitioners, and other mental health advocates is important to maintain their well-being in order to comprehensively help and serve those people who need a helping hand in terms of their condition. Moreover, being aware and showing empathy is one of the best ways to help ourselves and people with mental health problems as they need support and understanding more often during this time when their struggle with mental health deteriorates even more.
Chatterjee, S. S., Barikar C, M., & Mukherjee, A. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on pre-existing mental health problems. Asian Journal of Psychiatry, 51, 102071. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajp.2020.102071
COVID 19 and its mental health consequences. (2021). Retrieved September 28, 2021, from Journal of Mental Health website: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09638237.2020.1757052
Sergeant, A., van Reekum, E. A., Sanger, N., Dufort, A., Rosic, T., Sanger, S., … Samaan, Z. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 and other pandemics and epidemics on people with pre-existing mental disorders: a systematic review protocol and suggestions for clinical care. BMJ Open, 10(9), e040229. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-040229