Anxiety and Surviving Covid-19:

As I write this article, the coronavirus lockdown continues here in England, and the pandemic itself rumbles on. Whilst there seems to be optimism over a vaccine, infection levels remain high and sadly Covid-19 related deaths continue.

I've written a lot about anxiety and Covid-19, in terms of the impact of coronavirus on mental health, what you can do about your anxiety and the fear of contracting Covid-19 (coronaphobia). Most of the research I've come across up until now has been focused on how the pandemic is impacting on our mental health and the fear and anxiety around getting Covid-19, and the impacts from social restrictions and on things like employment and education.

However, some research is coming out now about what happens after someone has Covid-19. So rather than fear and anxiety about the possibility of getting it, what then happens physically and mentally to Covid-19 survivors.

The Impact of Covid-19 

An increasing body of research has shown that many symptoms can persist after a Covid-19 infection. 

One of these symptoms is fatigue and Townsend et al (2020) examined the prevalence of fatigue in individuals who had recovered from the acute phase of Covid-19 illness. They found that many people who have contracted Covid-19 continued to struggle with fatigue and were not back to full health or their usual daily activities (such as work) many weeks after infection. They also noted a significant association between having a pre-existing diagnosis of depression and the use of anti-depressant medications and subsequent development of severe fatigue.

There is early evidence of post-viral fatigue in those recovered from the acute phase of Covid-19 illness. And, of course, fatigue and difficulty carrying out usual day to day activities can lead to a deterioration in mental health and well-being, and a potential sense of lowness, worry and anxiety.

And for those who have been hospitalised with Covid-19, there were many ongoing impacts on physical health, daily functioning and their mental health (Flanders, O'Malley & Malani).

There has been a lot of talk in the press recently about what is being called 'long-Covid', where people struggle physically for weeks after having had the virus. This research begins to add more and more knowledge to potential issues that Covid-19 survivors experience and the need for adequate physical, emotional and psychological support long after they have had the illness.

 

Anxiety After Surviving Covid-19   

Whilst more and more evidence of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health has become available, little evidence of the consequences on mental health of contracting Covid-19, including anxiety and depression, had been accurately measured.  Therefore Taguet et al (Bidirectional associations between Covid-19 and psychiatric disorder: a study of 62,354 Covid-19 cases, 2020) used a sample of over sixty two thousand who had received a diagnosis of Covid-19 to investigate whether a diagnosis of Covid-19 was associated with increased rates of subsequent psychiatric diagnoses, such as anxiety and depression.

They found that Covid-19 survivors have a significantly higher rate of psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety disorders and insomnia. Further research will be needed to understand the underlying mechanisms involved in this.

However, what I think it does show is that post Covid-19 treatment should include an ongoing psychological support element to help people cope and to reduce the incidence of anxiety disorders. It may be that ongoing physical symptoms, some of which I mentioned above like fatigue, along with the struggle some people have daily due to ongoing health consequences, may be adding to the anxiety and adverse mental health outcomes. Being unable to do some daily tasks or being unable to return to work after several weeks could certainly lead to a drop in mental health and well-being. 

Of course, there are many, many things people can do to deal with their anxiety and to help them feel mentally healthier, like hypnotherapy.

The research also suggested that those with a previous psychiatric illness may have an increased risk of being diagnosed with Covid-19. Certainly more research would be needed here to understand the factors that may be involved (which could be other behavioural or lifestyle factors), Regardless, it emphasises the need for all of us to continue to maintain social distancing, to wash our hands and to follow current guidance. Ultimately, if you are struggling with anxiety it makes sense to take action and seek help. 

Please do check out the suggestions and advice on these pages for supporting your mental health and dealing with anxiety, stress, worry and fear. And above all please do stay safe and stay well. 

Stay safe and stay well,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket

 

References:

Scott A. Flanders, Megan O'Malley, Anurag N. Malani, et al. Sixty-Day Outcomes Among Patients Hospitalized With COVID-19. Annals of Internal Medicine 0;0 [Epub ahead of print 11 November 2020]. doi:https://doi.org/10.7326/M20-5661

Taquet, M., Luciano, S., Geddes, J.R. and Harrison, P.J., 2020. Bidirectional associations between COVID-19 and psychiatric disorder: a study of 62,354 COVID-19 cases. medRxiv.

Townsend L, Dyer AH, Jones K, Dunne J, Mooney A, Gaffney F, et al. (2020) Persistent fatigue following SARS-CoV-2 infection is common and independent of severity of initial infection. PLoS ONE 15(11): e0240784. https://doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pone.0240784