It isn’t enough that pandemics can have a massive impact on mortality and your physical well-being. They can also take a heavy toll on mental health. During a pandemic, it isn’t uncommon for the severity and prevalence of anxiety and depression to increase, along with substance abuse and PTSD. These increases might be due to massive alterations in the way we have to live our daily lives in an effort to keep the pandemic in check.
If you think you might have been infected by something like Covid-19, you might want to look into getting a rapid antibody test to find out whether or not you have the antibodies. If you do, it may bring your spirits up a bit, first to know that you made it through unscathed, and then because you might be able to donate your plasma, which can help with saving the lives of others. What a great way to bring your morale up a bit and combat pandemic stress!
If there’s one lesson we learned from 2020, it’s that when you’ve got a pandemic going on, there’s a LOT of stress that’s also involved. There are even different categories of pandemic stress, These are the fear of contamination and danger, fear of socio-economic consequences that are adverse, traumatic stress symptoms such as nightmares related to the pandemic, xenophobia, and seeking reassurance.
All types of pandemic stress correlate, meaning that they can all occur in a group. Because of that, it’s thought that these facets might even collectively be known as a syndrome. It’s anchored by contamination fears and pandemic related danger as a central feature, and the strongest connections being those to xenophobia – a fear of people from foreign countries who may be infected, and socio-economic consequences that are negative.
When it comes to coping with pandemic related stress, you first need to have an understanding of that stress. Firstly, it seems to be a network of symptoms that are interconnected – a pandemic stress syndrome if you will. At its centre is fear of the pandemic itself. This connects with concerns that are socio-economic in nature, traumatic stress symptoms, xenophobia, and a compulsive search for reassurance. This pandemic syndrome can then be primarily associated with a range of other socially disruptive and negative mental health consequences, like unhelpful methods of coping, excessive avoidance, and panic buying while we’re being told to isolate.
As pandemics evolve, so will the various mental health needs and challenges of the people. It’s going to take more research to get a better grasp of the total effects of pandemic related stress and whether or not these will change with the progression of the pandemic at hand.
There’s also a need for research in order to understand the antithesis and its disruptive impact when it comes to pandemic stress, which is essentially ignoring how serious a pandemic and its consequences can be.
Pandemics like COVID-19 can spawn an entire complex network of reactions when it comes to mental health. The idea of pandemic stress syndrome may assist in terms of building a more nuanced understanding of which reactions are necessary in order to come up with evidence-based and targeted interventions and campaigns to shrink the psychological footprint of it. Each one of these developments is just as vital to bringing the toll on mental health that a pandemic brings down as the eventual discovery of vaccines is vital to facilitating immunity in the population.
Don’t ignore your mental health or that of those around you. It can kill. If help is needed, get it now, before it’s too late.
Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Edinburgh. He has an ongoing interest in mental health and well-being.