COVID-19 is a severe illness that can take a toll on your body, but research has also revealed that it may affect your mental health, too. Its effects go beyond the extreme stress that people experience as a result of illness, lost jobs, or disrupted routines during the pandemic. Because of this, researchers are studying the connection between long COVID and depression, and how to help long COVID patients dealing with mental health issues.
Are you dealing with feelings of depression and anxiety along with long COVID? Learn more about long COVID depression symptoms, and what you can do to cope.
What is long COVID depression?
Long COVID depression refers to the condition where COVID-19 affects the nervous system, causing symptoms of depression. Effects that can lead to depression include:
- Brain fog (confusion, feeling mentally ‘fuzzy’, dissociation)
- Sleep disturbances
- Poor focus
- Symptoms of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder
- Symptoms of burnout or mental fatigue
- Memory issues
It is still unknown how long symptoms of long COVID will last in recovered patients. Studies are still being conducted on long COVID and its effects on the brain, as well as how it may contribute or lead to depression.
What factors increase your risk?
While both long COVID and depression can affect anybody, some groups are at a higher risk than others. Public health experts are still studying which factors make patients more likely to develop long COVID, but many suggest that you are more likely to have long COVID-19 depression if you:
- Are unvaccinated
- Are female
- Already have other pre-existing mental health conditions
- Have had a more serious case of COVID-19, such as needing intubation or admission into an intensive care unit
- Have comorbidities known to increase the risk of serious COVID-19 infection, such as diabetes or high blood pressure
Indirect issues that are not caused by COVID-19 but by the upheaval caused by the pandemic may also increase your risk of depression. The following may cause your low mood or Post-COVID-19 depression or make it worse:
- Financial problems due to loss of employment or the closure of your business
- Feelings of isolation from your loved ones
- Anxiety over COVID infection and its long-term effects
- Grief due to the death of your loved ones from COVID-19
- Helplessness over your loss of routine
Symptoms of Post–COVID depression
If you’ve had COVID-19 or are coping with long COVID, there’s a risk that you may be suffering from depression. Researchers found that over half of American adults were diagnosed with symptoms of major depressive disorder after being infected with COVID-19. These studies also showed that the risk for symptoms remains high up to a year after COVID patients have recovered.
Here are some psychological symptoms that indicate that you may be struggling with Post-COVID-19 depression:
- Lack of interest in hobbies and daily activities
- Changes in sleep and appetite (e.g. sleeping too much or too little, comfort eating, loss of appetite)
- Feelings of hopelessness, restlessness, or sadness, especially for a prolonged period of time
- Withdrawal from social situations and relationships
- Giving up on precautions against COVID because “there’s no point” or becoming fearful of COVID-19 infection
- Emotional numbness to news of people being infected with or dying from COVID-19, especially a family member or friend (a.k.a. emotional fatigue)
- Feelings of helplessness or hopelessness about managing long COVID or recovery from COVID-19
- Increased substance use (e.g. uptick in alcohol consumption)
- Unwillingness to plan for the future
How Can I Cope with Post–COVID depression?
Whether you ‘are struggling with the “‘new normal’” or dealing with a low mood because you were diagnosed with COVID, there are things you can do to alleviate your mental health symptoms. Here are some useful tips for coping with Post-COVID-19 depression.
Create new routines
It can be tough to plan for your daily life when it feels like the next day, week, or even month are all up in the air. To help with this, think about the things you can do to structure your days outside of COVID-19 restrictions.
Can you change your sleep environment to be more restful or plan regular exercise at home? Do you set clear boundaries for work and play despite working at home? Ask yourself these questions and use them to get a better sense of how to plan your days.
Maintain social connection
Stay in touch with family members and friends, and make time to talk to them. If you can’t see each other in person, give them a video call or connect with them over social media. Give each other little updates about your day, share interesting articles, attend online classes together, or schedule online watch parties.
Manage physical symptoms
COVID, Post-COVID-19 depression, and anxiety are all things that may have taken a toll on your energy. They also affect your ability to take good care of yourself. Do what you can to take good care of your physical health, such as getting regular exercise and enough sleep every night.
As more people have gotten vaccinated, it can be easy to forget to take the precautions you took since the pandemic began. Some may be distressed by the seeming laxness in daily life today, even though COVID hasn’t really gone away.
This can add to your mental health issues, so give yourself some peace of mind by observing practices like wearing mask, regular disinfection, and social distancing. Doing these things can help you feel like you are taking control and reduce the stress from uncertainty.
Tips and precautions
With a worldwide pandemic, it can be easy to slip into crisis mode every day. However, it’s important for your physical and mental health to avoid feeling worse and stay grounded in everyday life.
Try these practices so you can focus on improving your mood and gradually feel better:
- Disconnecting from social media, especially if you feel overwhelmed by the news
- Staying physically active by doing exercise or simple workouts at home
- Avoiding the use of alcohol and other mood-altering substances to cope with mental health issues
- Regularly engaging with friends and loved ones
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet
- Fixing your body clock to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep every night
- Drinking plenty of water
What can you do to treat depression after COVID?
If you are concerned that you are struggling with feelings of depression after a coronavirus infection, talk to a medical or mental health professional. While not everyone dealing with mental health issues will need a psychological evaluation for depression, the most important thing is to seek help for emotional support.
It can be tempting to rely solely on online resources or self-diagnose yourself for mental illness, but this may do more harm than good. Try the tips above and see if they alleviate your symptoms. If not, a medical professional can help you get therapy, medication, or other procedures as needed.
Seeking help for Post-COVID depression
Seeking help for long COVID symptoms like depression or anxiety is often stigmatized. But there’s nothing shameful about seeking help for Post-COVID depression treatment and working towards your mental recovery.
The COVID-19 pandemic has turned life upside-down for everyone. Long-haulers, current patients, and the uninfected alike benefit from consulting doctors or mental healthcare professionals. You do not have to suffer a major depressive episode to get help. If the behavioral changes suggested above don’t improve your daily mood, a professional can recommend treatment options.
Here are some options that doctors may offer to long COVID patients struggling with depression:
- Medical treatment for other long COVID symptoms: Long COVID has physical and mental effects that differ for everyone, such as brain fog and increased fatigue. Some of those physical effects may be affecting your mood and contributing to your depression. Your doctor may prescribe medication, according to your needs, to treat your depression as well as other medical treatments to reduce pain and other long COVID symptoms.
- Community support: Some people find it helpful to talk to other patients and share how COVID has affected their lives. Your doctor may suggest that you try group therapy or join a support group to find ways to cope with long COVID symptoms and their effects on your health.
- Psychiatric treatment options: You may be advised by your doctor or psychiatrist to undergo acceptance and commitment therapy , trauma therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy to address your depression.
The bottom line
It ‘is not clear yet how long it can take patients struggling with COVID-19 to move on from symptoms of depression. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions sometimes resolve without any need for treatment, but they may also worsen without extra support in other cases.
Mental health recovery may be a very individual process, but you may benefit from sharing your experiences and fostering a sense of community. Consider joining support groups for long COVID patients. This can help you feel less alone and encourage you to make new social connections, improving your mental health.
If you feel you are alone in your Post-COVID-19 journey, we are here to help. Know more about the support we offer and end your long Post-COVID depression by reaching out to us. Contact us now.