The Aftermath of the Coronavirus on Mental Health

There are many factors related to the coronavirus pandemic affecting the mental health of people, with social isolation and fear of the virus being at the top of the list. Based on other pandemics and natural disasters, as many as 50% of people may experience anxiety, depression, and some post-traumatic stress symptoms.

If those without mental illness are having a difficult time right now, you can bet those of us with mental illness, particularly anxiety, mood disorders, substance abuse, and obsessional or phobic disorders are having an exacerbation of symptoms due to the current situation.

If you begin to feel anxious, irritable, worried, or are unable to concentrate or sleep, or find yourself abusing drugs or alcohol, you may want to reach out to your healthcare professional. If you’re questioning whether you should reach out or not, go ahead and reach out. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

If you do not have a healthcare professional, call a hotline or a supportive friend to help you find one. Mental health issues are treatable and do not last forever. You can and will get better if you seek the help you need.

So tell me, how are you doing? I’m hanging in there. Where’s your head right now? Are you having an exacerbation of symptoms? What are you going through? As always, comments are open for questions and for sharing your experience.

How to Know if You Have Depression and What to Do About It

How do you know if you are depressed besides the fact that you feel depressed? I’m talking “clinical depression.” The kind for which you need to seek professional help. The kind that if you let it go you may end up hurting yourself.

The kind that leaves you laying in bed most of the day wondering what the point of life is and how the hell you’re going to make it through another never ending insufferable day. A day that was just like yesterday; that will be just like tomorrow. One running into another like one long slow song playing in slow motion through quick sand under water on repeat.

According to the medical people there are several symptoms you need to have almost every day for two consecutive weeks to meet the criteria of being depressed. These include:

  • “Fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
  • Impaired concentration, indecisiveness
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
  • Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day (called anhedonia, this symptom can be indicated by reports from significant others)
  • Restlessness or feeling slowed down
  • Recurring thoughts of death or suicide
  • Significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)” (source WedMD)

If you have any of these symptoms please talk to your doctor about it. Depression is treatable. Many people take medication for it and many do not. Some go to therapy. Often people do both. You and your doctor will decide what the best course of action is for you.

Personally, I do both. I figure hit it with all we’ve got. What have I got to lose except some nasty symptoms that lead me to thinking about my own death. I can’t have that. I have a family. A life. A purpose for being here. We all do. You do!

Get the help you need if you think you have depression. You deserve it.

Mental Illness is a Surmountable Obstacle

~ Guest post by Jackie Cortez

According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 4 people suffer from mental illness. And while treatment is available, it’s often underutilized.

For many people, mental illness can be something that troubles them periodically in life but never something that incapacitates them. For others, mental illness can be completely debilitating. What’s important is recognizing mental illness and treating it with the best approach for people so they may live healthy, productive lives.

Inner turmoil

While there are social stigmas attached to mental illness, it is the self-stigma that can be the most dangerous to a person’s overall well-being. A person with a mental illness may feel ostracized from his peers and turn to outward or inward destructive behaviors to cope. These may materialize as bursts of aggression, depression, or isolation or as reckless actions including sexual promiscuity and alcohol abuse and drug abuse. A mental illness makes it difficult to see past the negative aspects of today to the bright and beautiful possibilities of tomorrow. It is estimated that more than 90% of suicides are committed by persons with a diagnosable mental disorder. Approximately half of these individuals will struggle with drug or alcohol abuse before their death.

Physical self-care

If you’re struggling with a mental illness, you should take extra care to take care of yourself. Stress takes a toll on the body and can cause headaches, insomnia, muscle tension, upset stomach, and fatigue. These symptoms’ impact can be lessened through protecting your physical health. It is easier to maintain good mental health habits when your body – your foundation – is strong.

It is important to exercise daily. This may be done individually or in a group setting as exercise provides the body with natural stress relief hormones. Maintaining a balanced diet devoid of processed foods, including sugars, additionally goes a long way toward whole-person health. Sleep is essential and most adults require between seven and nine hours each night; a brief 30 minute nap in the early afternoon can also offer a person with a mental health disorder a bit of a boost. Most importantly, drugs and alcohol should be avoided completely as, despite common belief, these substances actually exacerbate stress and depression.

A mental illness will not go away overnight. However, many people find they are less affected when they practice these good mental health habits:

Avoid guilt

Negative emotions happen and it is important not to dwell on them or pass judgment. Understand that it is how you react to these emotions that matters. Recognize them but don’t get caught up in the moment.

Pay attention to the positive

Even in your deepest, darkest hour, positive things are going to happen in your day. It could be as small as a glimpse of the mountains or fresh ocean breeze. When they happen, pause and enjoy. It may help to keep a journal and write down one good thing that happens each day. You can go back and read about your happy days when you’re feeling sad or stressed to remind yourself that not everything in life is bad.

Find strength in numbers

There are virtually countless support groups in every city in every state for people struggling with mental illness. You can perform a quick online search for groups in your area. Know that you cannot solve things on your own and there are people out there who, like you, are dealing with invisible and taboo issues. Spending time with others will not only help you get things off your chest but will keep you connected to the world around you.

If you or someone you love is dealing with a mental health issue, such as depression or drug abuse, get help. Always remember there is no shame in asking for assistance from others, be they medical professionals, family, or friends. Tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity to look at the world with a fresh set of eyes.

man-2254752_640

~ Jackie Cortez works with The Prevention Coalition to identify and highlight resources on every aspect of substance abuse, ranging from prevention to addiction treatment. Her mission is to use her writings to help prevent drug and alcohol abuse.

Is Drug Addiction a Mental Illness?

the-church-of-hank-williams

I’ll get right to the point: YES, drug addiction is a mental illness. Let me explain the two main facets of drug addiction. First, there is the physical aspect of it – the physical craving for the drug because of the person’s chemical dependency upon the drug. In the case of alcohol, one will find that once they take a drink they will not be able to control the amount of alcohol they consume thereafter no matter how hard they try.

Second, there is the mental aspect of it, which is the obsession of when, how, how often and how much of the drug one can get. The addict’s thoughts are consumed with obtaining and retaining access to their drug of choice. It is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder in my opinion, and it is lethal. It is not a moral shortcoming. It is not a choice. It is not a sin. It is not a lack of discipline or will-power. It is a mental illness!

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, drug addiction qualifies as a mental illness because “addiction changes the brain in fundamental ways, changing the person’s normal hierarchy of needs and desires and substituting of new priorities connected with procuring and using the drug.”

While the addict may have crossed the line into non-choice when it comes to using his drug, he does always have the choice of whether or not to get treatment for his illness/addiction, just like one who has bipolar or schizophrenia can choose to get help for his illness or not.

However, as in the case with many mental illnesses, sometimes a primary symptom is that which tells the person that they don’t have the illness. This symptom is called denial, and unfortunately, it can delay treatment long past what is appropriate or safe for the individual.

Resources:

National Institute on Drug Abuse
Alcoholics Anonymous
Al-Anon
Narcotics Anonymous