Coronavirus Chronicles — The Virus vs. Mental Health

COVID-19 is not satisfied by leaving survivors with a motley collection of residual physical symptoms, including some that could potentially hang around for the rest of their lives. No, it also attacks the psyche.

For The Guardian, Nicola Davis writes,

A study from researchers at the University of Oxford and NIHR Oxford Health Biomedical Research Centre found that nearly one in five people who have had Covid-19 were diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder — such as anxiety, depression or insomnia — within three months of testing positive for the virus.

The experience has been even worse for those who already suffered from depression, because when they learned how difficult it would be just to get tested, their emotional health immediately went into decline. There is also the issue of test reliability, which depends on factors over which a patient has no control. Some people have come down with the illness after having been disbelieved, misdiagnosed, or simply forced to work despite being sick.

When diagnosed, some people whose mental health had always been stable began to have panic attacks for the first time. One woman who was interviewed revealed that it took two months for her doctor to admit she had COVID-19. Another responded by drawing up suicide plans. These included a list of “put your affairs in order” type chores that would need to be done before removing herself from life, and a list of people who would have to be notified afterward.

Even after ostensibly recovering from the virus, people become more forgetful, or experience “brain fog.” They feel as if they have aged a decade or more, and can never recover the energy level they used to take for granted.

Mind games

Another source of emotional distress can be the belief differentials between couples, family members, friends, and roommates. People who prefer caution may be mocked, belittled, and even bullied into proving their courage and their commitment to ideals like autonomy and freedom.

A guy can be convinced to go bar-hopping by the fear that if his girl goes out alone, well, anything might happen. If your girlfriend meets someone who isn’t scared of an invisible little bug, and if she goes home with that brave hero, and decides that what her life needs is a devil-may-care fellow with no boundaries — well, it’s your own fault, really. Yes, some people actually do play those dangerous games with their partners’ emotions, resulting in more unnecessary sickness and death.

An insidiously cruel example of taunting can occur for religious reasons. People can be shamed into taking unwise chances because to play it safe would leave them vulnerable to charges of false or insufficient faith.

The point here is, every type of negative emotion can bring up latent eating disorders, or cause disordered eating to blossom in someone who never had that particular problem before. Mental and emotional stress will break down all rational food habits and burn every good intention to the ground. Grownups lose control over their actions and set a terrible example for their children.

Trapped inside with unhappy kids, they experience despair and think, “What’s the use? The only thing I have to give them right now is that stockpile of cookies in the old army trunk. Why not? Who cares? What difference does it make? We may not live through this crisis anyway. If we do, we’ll worry about the extra pounds then.” Needless to say, this is not a solution to anything.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “‘I began to lose hope’: the people living with post-Covid psychiatric disorders,”, 11/10/20
Image by Jernej Furman/CC BY 2.0

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Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
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Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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