The coronavirus disease known as COVID-19 caused a worldwide healthcare crisis in 2020, infecting millions and forcing governments to implement strict measures to prevent its spread. COVID devastated healthcare systems, economies, and the way we socialize – and we are still working on recovering from the pandemic today.
Some people continue to suffer symptoms long after the COVID-19 infection clears. Known as long COVID, its effect is significant on both our physical and mental well-being. In fact, long COVID patients have an increased risk for mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
If you are coping with long COVID, discover the ways to get help and find support from online communities.
The majority of people who catch COVID-19 will take two to three weeks to recover. However, there is a significant number of people who experience persistent symptoms for weeks or even months after COVID-19 infection. This condition is known as long COVID.
Some of its notable symptoms include the following:
- Brain fog (inability to focus, remember things, or pay attention)
- Mental health challenges such as anxiety, stress, and/or depression
- Persistent joint pain and muscle weakness
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- Heart palpitations
- Sleep disturbances (a.k.a. ‘coronasomnia’)
- Cough and/or sore throat
- Stomach pain, diarrhea, or appetite loss
This is by no means an exclusive list of the physical and mental health problems you may suffer as a result of long COVID-19. If you are coping with any of these symptoms or any other medical issues, consult your doctor or a licensed mental health professional as needed. Letting them know about your health concerns is the first step towards getting assistance and treatment during a difficult time.
Help for patients with Post-COVID health issues
Getting medical treatment for the physical symptoms of long COVID is only one facet of getting help. Patients who are coping with post-COVID problems should consider drawing on mental health resources in the community.
Professional mental health services can help patients and their families cope with their ‘new normal’. Consider consulting a mental health care worker if you:
- Are grieving the death of a loved one due to COVID-19
- Experience post-traumatic stress disorder after your COVID-19 infection
- Have feelings of anxiety, fear and depression
For those looking for emotional assistance, there are many communities and support groups both offline and online. While you can look for a Facebook support group, your doctor may also be able to recommend virtual support groups in the local community, where you can connect with others and learn how to advocate for your patient rights.
Many online support groups can also connect you with charity organizations that provide financial assistance programs. If you have lost your job during the pandemic and struggle to meet your basic needs or pay bills, a COVID support group can help you get back on your feet.
How to get help
Your treatment for long COVID-19 begins with your doctor. Let them know of any physical or mental health issues you ‘are struggling with as a result of COVID-19. From there, your doctor may recommend a course of treatment or refer you to a mental health professional or a special department at your local public health institution.
Be proactive and ask your doctor if they know about any online support groups that offer mental health assistance, advice on debt relief, or even simply a safe space where members can vent about their lives. A group that offers support despite social distancing measures will be invaluable for warding off the loneliness of social isolation, especially if you are still recovering from COVID-19.
COVID-19 recovery support group
COVID-19 support groups can help in many different ways, such as by giving frequent updates on treatment and medical education. Patient advocates and group moderators can caution against unproven remedies, as well as raise awareness of effective treatments.
Support groups can also offer economic help, especially to vulnerable populations who have lost their main source of employment. Apart from helping you get governmental assistance, they can point you to mutual aid resources that match people who need help with those willing to donate and provide support.
These online support groups also provide invaluable information for mental health services. Many of them have a national directory of therapists, psychiatrists, and other resources to address mental illness. Some even have specialized services, such as help for domestic violence victims or grief counseling for those dealing with the loss of loved ones to COVID-19.
Lastly, support groups offer a safe space where long COVID patients can unburden the emotional anguish and worries of living with their illness. For many, this simple practice can go a long way in helping patients feel less alone, and it may even provide them with the encouragement they need to move forward in their lives.
You can find support by asking your physician if they are connected to or aware of any local groups. Alternatively, search on social media platforms like Facebook or Reddit to look for online long COVID groups. Different communities offer different kinds of benefits and services, so it’s important to do your research before picking one to join.