Millions of people are experiencing emotional distress and are at increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety, according to a new article published this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, co-authored by Carol North, M.D., a crisis psychiatrist who has studied survivors of disasters including 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. Dr. North emphasized that COVID-19 is new territory and "We haven't studied depression in pandemics. "Almost everyone may experience some distress—some more than others," says North.
Some of the conditions that have skyrocketed recently include anxiety and depression, feelings of helplessness, inability to sit with the unknown, insomnia, fear, sadness, rage, anger, loss of control, boredom, domestic violence and unfortunately suicide ideations-as various hotline inquiries report.
Unprecedented and presently necessary public health measures of sheltering-in-place orders have nearly paralyzed preventive health measures such as cancer screening programs that aim to save hundreds of thousands of lives. The American College of Radiology’s guidelines for preventive cancer screenings that provide early detection of Lung Cancer Screening, Breast Cancer Screening, colon, prostate, liver cancers to name a few, have come to an abrupt halt. People suffering from chronic and fatal conditions such as cardiac disease, hypertensive strokes and diabetic ketoacidosis live with paralyzing fear these days. Our elderly population, forced to remain in isolation in nursing homes and senior living centers, are gravely suffering from loneliness and fear.
Other vulnerable groups are those suffering from psychiatric, mental, emotional or substance use disorders. Few solutions are available for these vulnerable patient populations. Those suffering from addiction are at increased risk since many cannot obtain their medications and lack access to life preserving detox centers or residential centers. Those who suffer from chronic conditions such as diabetes, HTN, COPD are exponentially worse off given the psychosomatic pressures brought about by the CODIV-19 pandemic. A well-kept home journal, blood pressure or blood sugar log and restless nights can attest to that.
And as if that's not a big enough pill to swallow, daily we find out about other "new" diseases caused by this virus. From cardiomyopathy, to Guillain-Barre neurologic syndromes and other yet to be discovered complications, SARS-CoV-2 is a virus that keeps giving~unfortunately!
So what, where, when is the solution? Wish there were an answer. Perhaps one of the greatest lessons of COVID-19 is acceptance of the unknown, courage to fearlessly fight (and discover the treatment protocols) and the wisdom to reach out to the wise counsel and loved ones for exchange of daily support. Continued strict universal precautions of hygiene and sheltering in place are a given for now. To the degree that we continue to adapt and assimilate (faster than SARS-CoV-2 at least), the greater chance of health and survival we will have. I agree this is far easier said than done! Case in point, I’ll be grabbing my umpteenth cup of tea and try as hard as I may to push boredom and restlessness away. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it ;) Now, onto another jar of yummies topped with Trader Joe’s Aioli Garlic Mustard Sauce.
(Photo of doctor holding the mask by Ashkan Forouzani.)