Clinical research studies are still thin on the ground, however, there have now been several high-quality surveys that give a glimpse into the mental health impact of Covid.
One of the surveys conducted by the Indiana University School of Medicine received responses from over 1,500 participants. “Anxiety” was rated as the 8th most common long Covid symptom out of a list of 98. Perhaps surprisingly, lingering anxiety was a more common symptom than “classic” covid symptoms such as persistent chest pain or cough, suggesting that mental health impact should not be under-estimated.
Other psychological symptoms reported in this survey include difficulty concentrating, sleep problems, memory problems, sadness, confusion, feelings of irritability, and noticeable personality changes.
These symptoms can affect people for the first time, so are not only linked to pre-existing concerns.
According to some psychiatrists, around 30% to 50% of people with Covid illness experience psychological impact ranging from diagnosable common mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, to more general symptoms such as not feeling your best or able to carry out work, academic or home responsibilities as before.
Another common symptom described by survivors is “brain fog” -- a perceived decline in overall cognitive function, such as the ability to focus, attention span, memory, and speed of learning new information. Brain fog is not unique to Covid, it also affects patients with other viruses, illnesses, and those who experienced prolonged hospital stays. The difference with Covid is that some patients report these symptoms even after a mild episode of virus and no hospital stay, leading some specialists to suggest that the virus itself could be damaging neurons.
Because the impact of Covid on mental health is still poorly understood, some of our clients report skepticism from friends, family, or even their GPs when trying to communicate their symptoms. If you feel that your psychological health has been affected by the experience of Covid, it can be really helpful to keep a diary of your mood, feelings, and anything that is different from normal, over a course of a couple of weeks. These records are very valuable if you are trying to explain to your GP or another professional what has been going on and will help to support your narrative.
Psychological recovery after Covid is greatly assisted by lifestyle improvements, such as a gradual increase in physical activity, maintaining a healthy diet, being connected with friends and family, taking time to read books, and engaging your brain with learning new skills. At Fernwood we are here to provide tailored mental health support for symptoms such as anxiety, low mood, stress and overwhelm, helping you to process the effects of the illness and move forward.
Fernwood Clinic Team
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