Mental Health Conditions Increase at Disconcerting Rates During Pandemic
During the early weeks of shelter-in-place, stress levels rose 38 percent, anxiety rose 54 percent and depressive mood rose 61 percent. These factors, in turn, appear to be contributing to a higher risk for mental disorders.
Substance abuse and addiction are on the rise. The number of U.S. workers flagging positive for addiction has doubled since February 2020. For those who struggle with addiction, COVID-19 has produced the perfect storm of dangerous conditions. Stress and anxiety, combined with isolation and an interruption of healthy coping strategies, together have created a trigger-rich environment for overuse and relapse.
Additionally, working Americans have not been able to rely on their usual strategies or methods to cope with temptations, such as in-person support groups, exercise clubs or even accountability networks like friends and co-workers. Working from home week after week, unsupervised and loosely managed, people have more opportunities to overindulge. These factors make recovering addicts and other substance abusers extremely vulnerable to problematic substance use.
Older adults are particularly at-risk for depression. Shelter in place mandates are compounding the problem — people become isolated and interactions with caregivers and loved ones are limited, which can lead to increased feelings of loneliness, fear and uncertainty.
While the risk for PTSD is high right now, the numbers are potentially indicative of past traumas. The fear and anxiety people are feeling in the midst of the pandemic is likely surfacing unresolved feelings from previous distressing events. It’s too soon for anyone to have been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of the pandemic. However, it’s possible we will see PTSD diagnoses in the future. This is one to watch.