covid-19 and its devastating effect on mental health what can we do


It has been more than a year since the world spiralled into the pandemic and lockdown seemingly straight out of a Hollywood blockbuster. The Coronavirus designated as SARS CoV-2 or simply COVID-19 has had devastating effect on not just the individual but also the economy and overall life as we know it. It seemed conquerable in the beginning but as months go by it seems more like an abyss. Millions of lives have been lost since the start of the pandemic and Millions more infected ranging from mild to severe illness. The Covid-19 has dealt a serious blow to the dreams and aspirations many of them held about their life and plans they made about their personal and work life, gone with the blink of an eye.

Wave after wave of various strains of COVID-19 has not allowed the life to resume normally on the planet. Countries going into lockdown to prevent further loss of lives at the cost of societal progress and economy.

As people are squandering to hold on to their loved ones, their jobs, their finances, little did anyone anticipate on the impact of covid-19 on mental health, its nothing less than a psychological warfare, creating havoc in the minds of people who lost someone and the survivors who has torrid times in isolation and ICU. What lies underneath is an anxiety on a global scale, more like a global anxiety phenomenon.

There has been an increase in rate of anxiety and depression which is significantly higher and climbing with each wave. More people are being diagnosed during the pandemic than earlier pandemic, also due to better understanding of mental illnesses.

Adding fuel to the fire is media coverage and unchecked social media platforms with tons of misinformation and false news spreading like a wildfire, enough to trigger panic attacks on individuals of any age group with no past history of psychiatric illness.

There have been reports of increases rates of depression and suicide which is increasing at an alarming rate under the lockdowns and economic downfall.

Most importantly the health care workers who are taking the virus head on have the greatest impact of anxiety. Many have perished due to covid-19, knowing they might contract the virus they stay away from family and friends, and handling deaths and despair of the people have immense psychological consequence with burnout a possibility and increased chances of depression and anxiety.


What are the symptoms you need to know?

There are various symptoms among different age groups.

Children may present with excess crying or adamant, problems with attention and concentration, feeling low or dull, change in eating and sleeping habits, fearful about getting sick etc. they might even show changes in habit and avoiding things that they enjoyed before. It is important to detect signs early in children, as and when detected earlier the resolution becomes easier.

In young adults and adults there has been increased in fear and panic attacks, apprehension about future and financial instability, lack of sleep and appetite, feeling of loneliness and heightened sense of abandonment. Duration and onset vary from individual as it has been noted more in Covid recovered individuals and those under quarantine and isolation.

Excessive worry about own physical health has been on the rise, changes in sleeping habits, increased use of substances like alcohol, smoking and cannabis, irritability due to lack of social interaction and isolation at home. Things can be overwhelming when someone close becomes diagnosed with Covid-19 positive and loss of dear ones can worsen all the above with excess guilt and emotional outburst. There are also concerns with Stigma following diagnosis with Covid-19 and post-recovery which can further compound loneliness and abandonment.

Elderly individuals may have symptoms similar to other age groups with feeling of loneliness and abandonment being more severe, irritability and lashing out at family members, reduced interaction with others, feeling of impending doom and apprehension about attracting Covid-19.

All these symptoms vary among Individuals and can increase due to overt use of social media. This can have serious implications on one’s mental health and affect or impair decision making of an individual. There are confusions about unscientific approach using alternative medicine towards Covid care which can delay or worsen the prognosis of an individual.


What can we do?

For Children:

  • Proper Communication – keep them informed about pandemic but not too much information.
  • Give them some power to ask questions and clear their doubts
  • Maintain routine that was lost due to staying away from school
  • Engage them in meaningful activities – let them help in household chores, play board games or other interactive games with them
  • Talk to them, address their concerns and don’t be dismissive.


For young adults and adults:

  • Adapting to healthy lifestyle choices
  • Keeping a tab on consuming news, social media and pornography.
  • Avoiding news and information from unverified or unofficial sources
  • Resorting to home-based workouts or exercise
  • Restrict information overload.
  • Maintain schedule.
  • Maintain contact with friends and family via video calls or group chat.
  • Help others in any ways you can.
  • Maintain balanced diet.
  • Limit or abstain from use of substances like alcohol and smoking.
  • Learn new things.
  • Develop a hobby/ rekindle old hobbies.
  • Practise mindfulness and relaxation techniques


For the elderly:

  • Maintain social contact via video calls,
  • Allow them to vent their frustrations, spend time and listen to their concerns
  • Reliving old memories
  • Reassurances
  • Other things that has been described in adults’ section.


For the healthcare workers:

The most important part of our fight against Covid-19 has been the psychological impact on healthcare workers. The longer the pandemic prolongs the worse things get for the frontline workers. Excess fear, being away from family, multiple deaths and loss of colleagues is enough to demotivate the healthcare community.

It is absolutely important they spend  some quality time for themselves, interact with family, stay in touch with friends regularly, adapt healthy lifestyle, create own routine and maintain till the pandemic prevails, take time off when less burdened to recuperate and be prepared for future waves.


Getting enough sleep is single most important factor in maintaining psychological wellbeing.

We need to fight together and be available for those in need, people need each other now more than ever.

Talk to Psychiatrists or clinical psychologists when in need of help. We need to destigmatize help seeking among healthcare professionals along with everyone else, which drastically reduces burden and improves efficiency.

Vaccination is the single most and effective weapon against Covid-19, irrespective of vaccines. Any vaccine is better than no vaccine. Getting vaccinated not only increases the chances of survival but also brings about peacefulness and boost confidence which can improve mental health as well. Hence it is important to get vaccinated as soon as possible.


Find the Doctor Details Below:

Dr. Asgar Alam

Specialist Psychiatry

Aster Speciality Clinic, Discovery Gardens, Dubai


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