Fear of Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19): Anxiety and Depression

Everyone in the world today is facing problems due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis but it depends on each one of us how we take it. Health isn’t always guaranteed by medicines. Most of the times, it comes from peace of mind, peace in the heart, and peace of soul. It comes from laughter and love.

The coronavirus disease is rapidly spreading by the day. Coronaviruses are a group of related viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, coronavirus causes respiratory tract infections that can be mild, such as some cases of the common cold (among other  possible causes, predominantly rhinoviruses), and others that can be lethal, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The disease -- first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, the capital of China's Hubei Province -- has been named coronavirus disease (COVID-19). ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ for virus, and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as ‘2019 novel coronavirus’ or ‘2019-nCoV.’ It has since spread globally, resulting in the ongoing 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic.  The virus is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person (generated through coughing and sneezing), and touching surfaces contaminated with the virus. The COVID-19 virus may survive on surfaces for a few hours to several days, but simple disinfectants can kill it. Studies to date suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets, rather than through the air.

People of all ages can be infected by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). A Chinese study has found older people and people with pre-existing medical conditions -- such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer – have a higher chance of being seriously ill from the virus due to their weakened immune systems.

The global spread of the disease, which the World Health Organization has termed a pandemic, is causing widespread concern with fear and stress, all of which are natural and normal reaction to the changing and uncertain situation that everyone has found themselves in. This new illness is certainly frightening and needs attention but it is important to stay calm and take precautions. The pandemic has not only had effects on people’s routine activities and livelihoods but is causing deeper issues such as mental health problems including depression from increased fear and loneliness.

According to WHO, harmful use of alcohol and drugs, self-harm, or suicidal behavior are also expected to rise.

The coronavirus disease can significantly affect the mental health for everyone. Mental illnesses result in changes in thinking, feeling and behaving. We can see common physical signs for anxiety including increased heartbeat or butterflies in the stomach. People might think they’re unable to cope with what is going on and feel scared, restless or stressed out. Even in the absence of mental illness, many people will experience some of theses symptoms during the pandemic. Depression might become common. The common physical change for depression may be changes in sleep pattern, appetite or energy. Behavioural signs might include withdrawing from people or activities, substance abuse, or poorer performance at work or school. Again, many people who do not have clinical depression will experience some of these symptoms during the pandemic. One might feel stressed, worried, fearful and ruminate over negative thoughts.

There is a lot of legitimate anxiety in people who are in quarantine -- either from having symptoms or thinking they might get sick -- as more people have been losing their lives. If the stress and anxiety worsen, it may trigger negative physical symptoms including elevated heart rate, insomnia, digestive issues, weakness and fatigue.

We can improve our mental health by getting plenty of sleep, well balanced diet, connecting with people through technology, stress management, managing media, setting goals and amount of information intake, and avoiding substance abuse. With weeks and months of the pandemic ahead, it is important to have some down time. Continuing to access nature and sunlight wherever and whenever possible is vital. Exercising, eating timely and staying hydrated are equally important.

With the awareness of these mental health risks, we can work towards coping with this challenging situation and reduce the potential impact on our mental health.

People need to understand that they are not facing this crisis alone, the whole world is going through the same challenges physically, psychologically, emotionally, and economically. We are all facing the same problems. So, let us motivate each other by spreading the message that we can fight this disease and eventually win by flattening the curve. Therefore, stay home and stay safe.