COVID-19 can do more than just affect your physical health. New research suggests that individuals who test positive for this deadly virus are also at an increased risk of developing anxiety or certain types of mood disorders after they recover.
Results of the Study: A new study out of the United Kingdom is shedding a little light on how the long-lasting effects of COVID-19 reach far beyond its physical symptoms. Researchers found people who had been diagnosed with COVID-19 had a significant chance of developing a psychiatric disorder after they had recovered from the illness. The study demonstrated that 18% of the patients developed a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression, or dementia within three months of coming down with the virus. This figure represents a number twice that of the general population that has not tested positive.
How Does COVID-19 Affect Your Mind? It is no surprise to learn that the mere diagnosis of COVID-19 can severely impact your mental and emotional state. Just being diagnosed with a new and little understood deadly virus can trigger an individual to feel stressed and anxious. Most people who come down with the virus are understandably worried about their health and for the safety of their loved ones.
Another contributing factor to the mental anguish is that a person who tests positive must isolate themselves from others. This isolation can serve to exacerbate the anxiety and depression levels.
COVID-19 Affecting the Brain: While COVID-19 was once believed to be just a respiratory illness, it is now clear that the virus has the ability to penetrate nearly every organ in the body, including the brain. Doctors are increasingly reporting how COVID-19 patients often experience a host of neurological issues. These problems range from mild confusion and dizziness to severe delirium.
Although the way that COVID-19 penetrates the brain and central nervous system is not entirely clear, scientists suspect that the novel virus may damage the blood supply that flows to the brain. This damage may lead to swelling in the brain tissue, resulting in severe neurological impairments.
In addition, if your respiratory system becomes impaired as a result of the virus, it would not be unusual for a decrease in oxygen supply to the brain to lead to further complications. Researchers also point to a connection between the body’s immune function and mental health. Because COVID-19 can wreak havoc on a body’s natural circadian rhythm, this can affect sleep patterns and overall health as a result.
Past Precedence Between Virus Impact on Mental Health: The findings that point to COVID-19 as being a potential trigger for mental health issues is not without precedent. There are other various viral infections that have been shown to impact both the mind and the brain. Studies have demonstrated that both severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) can lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia, manic behavior, and delirium. Both of these viral infections show striking similarities with COVID-19.
How to Guard Against Mental Health Complications: If you have been diagnosed with COVID-19, it is important to not stress out. Doing so will only increase the risk that you develop anxiety or depression as a result of the virus. Although you may have to isolate yourself from others, you can still boost your mental health and emotional outlook by connecting with loved ones via FaceTime, Zoom calls, and other means of communication.
Since many of the mental health issues develop well after the physical symptoms subside, there are a number of steps that you can take to guard against these effects from taking hold. Getting regular exercise, being diligent about nurturing social connections, practicing meditation, and eating a healthy diet can also help to protect your mental health.
While there is still a lot to be learned about how this devastating virus can affect multiple aspects of your overall health, scientists are making great progress in learning more about how to treat and prevent some of these ill effects.