Despite this being a new disease with less than a year’s worth of data on hand, we already have indications that the long-range outlook is a nightmare.
In previous posts, we compared the coronavirus to an iceberg. A small part of its mass sticks up from the water and is easily seen. Obviously, because of the pandemic, more Americans than ever are coping with food insecurity. It is also hard to miss the connection between food insecurity and the extreme behaviors that we know as eating disorders. Of course, many people already had a problematic relationship with eating. But in others, the exigencies of public safety have brought it out for the first time.
Then, there is the much larger bottom part of the iceberg, which contains the invisible secrets that have to be discovered one by one, like the uncanny compatibility between SARS-CoV-2 and obesity. Another huge amount of baggage in the lower portion consists of The Future. From the very start, some scientists homed in on the probability that the ensuing months and years would be worse in ways we couldn’t even imagine yet. The first thought that crossed their minds was, “If you think this is bad, wait till you see how it plays out one year, five years down the line.”
A perfect ice storm
Some even foresaw, specifically, the enormous problems that would result from the cumulative weight of two things: the pandemic, and the vast amount of mental/emotional illness that already existed. Whatever weaknesses, shortcomings, neuroses, and psychoses a person started out with, living under pandemic strictures and fears could only make them worse. The emotional wounds that cause people to act out in destructive ways would be re-awakened, and new damage would be inflicted.
Some scholars predicted that psychological stress would play a huge role in the COVID-19 story, and as the months went by and the evidence rolled in, they said, “Dude, I called it.” Others warned that the disease itself would not be as easily banished as everyone wanted to assume. “Until we know what it does to people 10 or 20 years down the line, we don’t know anything,” was their intuitive take — and they too were correct.
The ultimate aggression
The worst thing the virus can do is attack you, and the next worst thing it can do is attack someone you love. Either occurrence is like a boulder thrown into a pond. Ripples spread in every direction. People who don’t have the disease get affected. A man is admitted to the hospital for another reason, and dies without any family members around, because of the anti-COVID rules they are not allowed in. If not for the virus, he and his relatives would not have experienced that extra heartache.
In July, Jacob Stern, in “This Is Not a Normal Mental-Health Disaster,” reminded readers of the three-month reign of terror caused in Hong Kong in 2003, caused by the related SARS virus (for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) — and of its extended aftermath:
More than 40 percent of SARS survivors had an active psychiatric illness, most commonly PTSD or depression. Some felt frequent psychosomatic pain. Others were obsessive-compulsive. The findings, the researchers said, were “alarming.”
(To be continued…)
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “This Is Not a Normal Mental-Health Disaster,” TheAtlantic.com, 07/07/20
Image by Michael Coghlan/CC BY-SA 2.0