By now, we’ve all heard that COVID-19 has had a massive effect on the population’s mental health.
“In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by a massive 25%” – The World Health Organization
Changes to daily life, the grief that accompanies losing others, and isolation have all caused extreme levels of anxiety for the population at large. However, it appears that those that actually became sick with COVID-19 have been much more susceptible to varying mental health problems.
A 2021 study entitled Association of Acute Symptoms of COVID-19 and Symptoms of Depression in Adults found that more than half of American adults reported symptoms of major depressive disorder after a coronavirus infection. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2777421
And making matters worse still, according to a recent article in the New York Times, “the risk of developing symptoms of depression remains high up to a year after you’ve recovered.”
How can COVID physiologically affect depression?
There may be a physiological connection between COVID and mental ailments such as depression. It is thought that, as the immune system goes into ‘overdrive’ to help fend off infections – including COVID – body-wide inflammation is one result. This inflammation also occurs in one’s brain.
COVID-19 may even negatively affect the biome of the gut. The quantity of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which are also produced by microbes in the gut, may be reduced due to this inflammation. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2021.672390/full
Addressing post-COVID depression
If you believe that you or a loved one is suffering from post-COVID depression, your first step – and most important step – should be speaking with a medical or mental healthcare professional.
Good sleep, diet, exercise, and relaxation can only help.
And while self-help resources are tempting, depression is not typically something that you can dependably improve on your own.
Donna Xu is a therapist in Plano, Texas. She provides psychotherapy specializing in treating depression and anxiety, as well as helping individuals with relationship matters. Donna can work with clients across all of Texas via online sessions.