Depression Amidst Pandemic-Reason

-Kaushani Saha, Student of Psychology (B.A.)

A virus named corona started spreading from Wuhan, China beginning from the end of the year 2019 and with the onset of the year 2020, it affected the whole world.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus spreads through the saliva and sneeze of an infected person. WHO has advised some important ways to prevent the spread of the virus – practicing social distancing, wearing masks, using alcohol based sanitizer for washing hands.

Apart from following all these important measures advised by WHO, many people across the whole world have been affected by this deadly virus. Doctors all over the world are treating people day and night to help them recover. To protect the citizens and decrease the spread of the virus, the governments of all the countries have announced lockdown which resulted in arousing depression, fear and anxiety among many.  

Depression (major depressive disorder) is a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Fortunately, it is treatable. Depression causes feelings of sadness and/or a loss of interest in activities once enjoyed. It can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems and can decrease a person’s ability to function at work and at home (American Psychiatric Association).

Due to this lockdown announced by the government; on one hand, all the working people have to work from home in a monotonous way and on the other hand the doctors working in the hospitals have to stay isolated so that the virus doesn’t spread from them to their families. This situation has been responsible for depression among all the people. People can’t go out like they used to in earlier days and have to stay homebound. The uncertainty about the whole situation is something that is causing all the people to feel depressed and anxious.

A survey was conducted by Wen Lu, Hang Wang, Yuxing Lin, Li Li which focuses on assessing the psychological status of the medical workforce. A total of 2299 eligible participants were enrolled from the authors’ institution, including 2024 medical staff and 257 administrative staff. It was seen that compared to the non-clinical staff, front line medical staff in close contact with infected patients, were 1.4 times more likely to feel fear, twice more likely to suffer anxiety and depression. (Psychiatry research, 112936, 2020).

Another study was done on the psychiatric patients by Fengyi Hao, Wanqiu Tan, Li Jiang, Ling Zhang, Xinling Zhao, Yiran Zou, Yirong Hu, Xi Luo, Xiaojiang Jiang, Roger S Mclntyre, Bach Tran, Jiaqian Sun, Zhisong Zhang, Roger Ho, Cyrus Ho, Wilson Tam. 76 psychiatric patients and 109 healthy control subjects were recruited from Chongquig, China. The Impact of Event Scale- Revised (ISR-R), Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21) and Insomnia Severity Index (ISI) were used. It shows:

  • The mean IES-R, DASS-21 anxiety, depression and stress subscale and ISI scores were higher in psychiatric patients than the healthy controls (p<0.001).
  • Serious worries about their physical health, anger and impulsivity and intense suicidal ideation were significantly higher in psychiatric patients than healthy controls (p<0.05).
  • More than 1/3 of psychiatric patients might fulfill the diagnostic criteria post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • More than 1/4 of psychiatric patients suffered from moderately severe to severe insomnia.

This study confirmed the severity of negative psychological impact on psychiatric patients during the COVID-19 epidemic with strict lockdown measures(Brain, behavior, and immunity, 2020).

A study was done on the U.S. young adults (18-30years) during the COVID-19 pandemic as well by Cindy H Liu, Emily Zhang, Ga Tin Fifi Wong, Sunah Hyun. The cross-sectional online study assessed 898 participants from April 13, 2020 to May 19, 2020. Respondents reported high levels of depression (43.3%, PHQ-8 scores  10), high anxiety scores (45.4%, GAD-7 scores 10), and high levels of PTSD symptoms (31.8%, PCL-C scores 45). These factors provide initial guidance regarding clinical management for COVID-19- related mental health problems (Psychiatry Research, 113172, 2020).

In Wuhan the effect of the 2019 novel coronavirus pandemic was studied on college students by Dong Yang, Chia-Ching Tu, Xiao Dai. The sample included 384 students from 4 universities in Wuhan, China. Four structured instruments were applied to the college students, including scale of the 2019-nCoV coronavirus victimization experience, scale of the positive thinking, scale of the resilience, and scale of the mental health. The responses were scored using a 5-point Likert scale (a psychometric scale commonly involved in research that employs questionnaires). The findings confirmed that the 2019-nCoV victimization experience was a negative predictor of mental health; positive thinking and resilience were strong mediators between 2019-nCoV victimization experience and mental health. The results indicated that a complete model was significant because positive thinking compensated for resilience [Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy 12 (S1), S6, 2020].

A survey was done in Canada on pregnant women by Catharine Lebel, Anna MacKinnon, Mercedes Bagshawe, Lianne Tomfohr-Madsen, Gerald Giesbrecht. The current COVID-19 pandemic is a unique stressor with potentially wide-ranging consequences for pregnancy and beyond. 1987 pregnant participants were surveyed across Canada in April, 2020. The assessment included questions about COVID-19 related issues.  It was seen that 37% reported clinically relevant symptoms of depression, 57% reported clinically relevant symptoms of anxiety, and 68% reported elevated pregnancy-related anxiety. This study shows concerningly elevated levels of psychological distress among pregnant individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic, that have long-term impacts on their children.

Coping behaviors associated with decreased anxiety and depressive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown are suggested by Miquel A Fullana, Diego Hidalgo-Mazzei, Eduard Vieta, Joaquim Radua. A survey was conducted on 5545 adult individuals from the Spanish general population. 65% of the sample reported anxiety or depressive symptoms. The coping behaviors included:

  • Following a healthy/balanced diet and not reading news/updates about COVID-19 very often.
  • Taking the opportunity to pursue hobbies.

This study suggests that “simple” coping behaviors may protect against anxiety and depressive symptoms during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.

From the above mentioned cases we see many people across the world are suffering from depression, anxiety and fear. For this, factors like biological, psychological and social all are getting affected. People suffering from depression (decrease in the level of serotonin – biological) can neither control themselves (psychological) nor can they socialize properly (social). This happens because all the factors are interlinked as explained by the biopsychosocial theory.

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