We’ve all been hearing about COVID-19 and its impact on our nation’s health and healthcare systems. But how is this disease affecting Americans with mental health disorders?
There is unprecedented and intense media coverage of this event, with daily tallies of infections and deaths delivered to our televisions and web browsers on a daily basis. We see businesses close and workers laid off by the thousands in our own communities. We see people wearing gloves and face masks doing their best to maintain their distance from other people.
Along with the physical danger associated with the virus, we believe there is a definite increase in stress and anxiety—and not just about a person’s concern of contracting the illness, but stresses related to careers, finances, running out of supplies or resources, the impact of isolation and fear of relatives or loved ones getting sick.
Those with mental health disorders may find certain behaviors exacerbated by the pandemic. For example, a person with anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may fixate on hand washing or sanitizing, avoid touching surfaces, distance in excess from others and more. Those with major depressive disorder may exhibit greater symptoms of sadness, hopelessness and despair, as well as increasing thoughts of suicide.
If you find that your symptoms have worsened since the start of this national crisis, there are a few things that you can do:
- Turn off the television (or at least change the channel). The news today is designed to make people anxious, because that’s how people are encouraged to stay tuned. Instead, turn off the news and watch more inspirational or calming programming.
- Reduce alcohol intake. The purchase of alcohol since the crisis began has increased more than 50%. However, the World Health Organization has cautioned that drinking alcohol actually makes people more susceptible to coronavirus. Furthermore, overconsumption of alcohol can lead to other problems, and contribute to irrational thoughts or actions.
- Spend time outdoors. As long as you maintain social distancing, spending time outdoors can make a big difference to those who feel confined or isolated indoors. Being outside gives us a chance to breathe fresh air, feel the spring sunshine on our faces and even benefit from some physical activity.
- Continue your treatment. It is important to continue talking to your psychiatrist or mental health counselor, taking prescribed medication or maintaining other treatment regimens during this crisis. There are many new options available for doing so, including telehealth services from the convenience of your own computer. If you need to visit a facility for your treatment, you should know that nearly all healthcare providers (including TMS Center of Colorado) have implemented strict sterilization methods, use of gloves, masks and sanitizers, and have found ways to ensure social distancing within waiting rooms.
At TMS Center of Colorado, we’re here for you during this crisis. We provide complementary TMS therapy consultations and evaluations via phone, and are always happy to speak with your mental health professional about this therapy. In addition, we continue to perform TMS therapy for patients, with extra precautions in place (that go far beyond CDC recommendations) to help keep you and our employees safe.