Covid Stress Syndrome: A Common Mental Disorder
By: Vidya Raj
After more than two years since the Corona pandemic hit the world, people have adjusted to this new everyday life. Though people are getting better at taking care of their mental health, some are still battling with covid stress syndrome.
What is COVID Stress Syndrome?
The emotional and mental distress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is referred to as the COVID Stress Syndrome (CSS). The trauma of going through this pandemic and developing Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) has become quite common. It is multifaceted with a wide range of anxiety and fear-ridden aspects. According to research evidence, COVID Stress Syndrome consists of fear of getting into contact with infected surfaces or people, among others.
The five related aspects of COVID Stress Syndrome are, i) fear of contamination and danger, ii) socioeconomic fears, iii) xenophobia, iv) compulsive checking and reassurance seeking, and iv) traumatic stress.
Symptoms of Covid Stress Syndrome
One can quickly identify the symptoms of covid stress syndrome. Look out for the below-mentioned symptoms if you are concerned that you or one of your loved ones are struggling with it. Mostly the signs are as same as those of trauma people experience after facing life-threatening situations. Trauma causes changes in brain patterns and causes emotional distress often in your life.
- Having sudden flashbacks to the event when you were affected by the coronavirus
- Getting angry or easily irritated
- Always fuelling on negative thoughts
- Being paranoid that something bad might happen again
- Suicidal tendencies
- Rapid heartbeat or difficulty in breathing
- Blaming oneself for infecting oneself and/or loved ones
- Increased substance abuse
- Isolating oneself more than necessary
Effect of COVID PTSD on Physical Health
The disruptions in social life, education, and jobs have added to anxiety and stress. The ongoing pandemic that does not seem to have an end is making people more prone to covid stress syndrome. Consequently, this ends up causing several other problems disrupting the peace of their daily life. Angry outbursts, insomnia, eating disorders, and other health problems are some of the common challenges arising from covid stress syndrome.
Covid stress syndrome can also cause people to indulge or start anew in their substance abuse behaviours. They start this as a form of escapism or in hopes of reducing their fears about the virus. But in fact, it ends in increased anxiety and depression. Research has found that people who use tobacco are more likely to have worse consequences in case of being contaminated. This is because their immune system and lungs are already in a weakened state. The coronavirus affects the lung, creating more health complications.
Effect of COVID PTSD on Mental Health
With the lockdown implemented across the world, people feel cut off from the world. People started working from home, thus negatively affecting their social skills. The concerns of re-establishing their connections add to their rising stress. In contrast, some people feel the need to self-isolate more but end up feeling more distressed. It further leads to panic buying.
This pandemic is a traumatic event even for the young ones. The sudden disconnect from their school life and friends consequently affects their academics and mental health. The coursework that previously made them enthusiastic, became tedious. After spending a whole day sitting in front of screens without the fun that a classroom provided, they become more prone to dissociation and depression.
Since the coronavirus emerged from Wuhan, China, there have been increasing levels of hate and violence toward the Chinese people. The foundation for this hatred is absurd. In spite of that, the resurgence of xenophobia and racism towards East Asians was at its peak in 2021. People had to be extra careful even while running their daily errands. This fear on top of the fear of the pandemic was enough to push their covid stress syndrome to new heights.
The covid stress syndrome affects each person differently and the way to tackle can also vary accordingly. Sometimes the symptoms may last for a few days or a week, and sometimes it may take longer for them to fade away. Nevertheless, there are some self-care methods that can help in reducing some of the symptoms. If the symptoms last for more than two weeks, it is advised to seek help from a professional.
Taking care of physical health:
- Get enough restful sleep by going to bed early and making sure to continue your pre-covid sleep pattern.
- Consuming nutritious food and maintaining a well-balanced diet. Limiting junk food and caffeinated drinks to a minimum will help in low anxiety, sleep problems and stress.
- Physical activity and exercising can help in lifting up moods and adversely improve your health.
- Remember to rest your eyes during the day at certain intervals and also an hour before bedtime.
Taking care of mental health:
- Maintain and follow a set routine every day; it will help ensure that you are in control.
- Be kind to yourself. Accept your emotions and let yourself feel everything without self-criticism.
- Limit the consumption of news and social media which will help in controlling unnecessary paranoia and fear. Refer to reliable sources and stay updated on important global, national and local news.
- Practising how to centre yourself can help in reducing anxiety and increase focus on what is important. Studies show that practising mindfulness can help in decreasing negative thinking.
- Focus on the positive things in your life and be grateful for them. Starting your day by focusing on them will help keep the negativity on the far end.
Prevention of Covid Stress Syndrome
The self-care methods to treat the symptoms of covid stress syndrome can also help prevent it from happening in the first place. The pandemic is showing no signs of ending and experts claim that the possibility of the world returning to normal is less. Follow these additional methods to stop yourself from descending into depression and developing covid stress syndrome.
- Take time to interact with others – even if they are virtual interactions. Call your friends, and ask how they are coping with the pandemic. Opening up about your struggles with someone you trust or someone who is going through the same difficulties can help relieve your stress.
- If you are fully vaccinated, indulge in outdoor activities that you have missed out on. Though make sure that you are following proper guidelines like wearing masks and not gathering in crowds in high COVID risk areas.
- Consider listening to audiobooks specially tailored to make you feel calm and peaceful after a mentally draining day. This will adversely help in controlling your anxiety.
Researchers have categorised covid stress syndrome as a pandemic-induced adjustment disorder. After several studies, they are of the opinion that any and all future pandemics can cause their own respective adjustment disorders. On the whole, being mentally strong and prepared is the key to getting through any kind of pandemic. As long as we cultivate our minds and body to be healthy, we are halfway through to winning this battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.