Mental Health Crisis: How Can I Help A Friend Or Family Member
Everyone has bad days when sadness, lack of motivation or worry get the best of them, especially in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
But, Vannorsdall points out, there are warning signs of anxiety and depression that should never be ignored:
- Talk of self-harm
- Giving away personal items
- Inability to perform ones normal daily activities
If you notice these in someone you know, it may be time to speak up. Vannorsdall says its not always easy, but she has some suggestions.
Its often challenging to know how to intervene in a way that a person might be open to, and theres no one size fits all, she says. But sometimes you can appeal to a struggling person in terms of that one aspect of their life that they really value, such as their children, their family, their work, or something else they feel is worth getting better for.
We often need to help reframe peoples conception of mental illness and health treatment, she says. People can remind themselves or their loved ones that the mind and body cant be considered separate entities. There is an underlying biology to emotional distress. A person isnt weak for having a mental health problem, and deserve relief as they would for any physical pain.
Neurological Outcomes Develop From The Disease Itself
Some have suggested that anxiety or depression in long COVID patients is a result of environmental changes during the pandemic or stigmas associated with being infected, Hanson said. But the connection between anxiety symptoms and these biomarkers indicate that there are physical changes to the brain in some patients, Hanson said.
Thats encouraging, Hanson said. It does give us a suggestion that there might be a mechanistic cause to that neuropsychiatric symptom of anxiety.
Researching this relationship in people who experienced only mild to moderate COVID-19 is important to better understanding what is happening in the central nervous system, according to Jacqueline Becker, PhD, clinical neuropsychologist at Mount Sinai Health System who is unaffiliated with the study.
Studies have long shown that patients who are hospitalized for critical illnesses sometimes suffer neurological consequences due to treatments that require intubation or restrict oxygen to the brain.
Comparing this group with those who were never hospitalized for COVID-19 indicates that there is something specific to the COVID-19 virus that is causing neurological issues, Becker said.
Support And Help Others
Helping someone else can benefit you as well as them. Having an understanding of other people’s concerns, worries or behaviour is a great way to show your support.
Try to think of things you can do to help those around you. Is there a friend or family member nearby you could regularly check in with? If you’re not local to them, try phoning or messaging instead.
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A Psychiatrist’s Hypotheses And Recommendations
I heard Chris Cuomo talk to his audience on his CNN show last Monday about the mental health effects of COVID infection. In his brave account, he wasnt talking just about anxiety and depression which might result from being kept in his basement. This was something different: He literally felt that COVID-19 was changing his brain chemistry somehow. It got me thinking about neurobiological mechanisms. There isnt much written about it, although I did exhaustive search.
There is some evidence that coronavirus does attack the brain. According to a paper by Abdul Mannan Baig, the brain has been reported to express ACE2 receptors that have been detected over glial cells and neurons, which makes them a potential target of COVID-19 and patients have had it reported in the cerebral spinal fluid. Previous studies have shown the ability of SARS-CoV to cause neuronal death in mice by invading the brain via the olfactory system.
A new study out of Wuhan showed that one-third of patients showed neurologic manifestations of the disease. Compared with patients with non-severe infection, patients with more severe infection had neurologic manifestations, such as acute cerebrovascular diseases , impaired consciousness .
I also wonder about anxiety. People say the anxiety from coronavirus is crippling, especially at night. Some are even having panic attacks. Why is this happening to people who never had anxiety before? Although there is no actual data, I can postulate a couple of reasons.
Youre Avoiding Medical Care
When some people have intense fear of a potential health problem, they may intentionally miss or not schedule appointments, whether its a routine checkup or a specific health concern, in fear of being diagnosed with a serious illness, said David Harari, a psychiatrist and the director of behavioral health at K Health.
He noted that its important to keep up with regular visits and to consult with a doctor if youre having a health issue youre concerned about. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your health, he said.
And if any of these warning signs rings a bell, reach out to a mental health professional. Its possible to navigate the pandemic without exacerbating your anxiety, and a therapist can tailor your coping methods to your specific needs.
Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.
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What Causes Health Anxiety
While there’s no specific cause of health anxiety, there are plenty of factors that seem to up a person’s risk. “One of the most common risk factors for health anxiety is just someone being extra sensitive to or aware of their body,” Dr. Spitalnick said. Here’s why: Bodies fluctuate in all sorts of ways that can be noticeable and uncomfortable without actually signaling a problem. But for those of us who are acutely attuned to our bodies, we often interpret these bumps and blips as flashing neon danger signs. And this can kick off a horrible cycle where the more we pay attention to these symptoms, the more noticeable they become and the more anxiety they cause.
“What happens is the brain doesn’t know to distinguish between real danger and imagined danger,” Merav Gur, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist in New York City, told Health. “If you tell yourself, ‘I think something is terribly wrong’ and you ruminate over it, the brain can release those anxiety hormones and you will start to feel anxiety-related symptoms like the fight or flight response, which is really uncomfortable.” Or it can lead to disturbances in your sleep, mood, or appetiteall of which can also lead to more physical symptoms for you to worry about.
Having a family history of health anxiety or a personal history of anxiety can also increase your risk, as can generally being someone who tends to catastrophize and always think of the worst case scenario, said Dr. Spitalnick.
What Is Health Anxiety
Health anxiety refers to a person’s preoccupation with having or developing a serious illnesswhether that’s COVID-19, cancer, HIV, or something else. While most people think of health anxiety as “being a hypochondriac,” that diagnosis was actually removed from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders when it was updated in 2013.¹
Instead, health anxiety now typically refers to two distinct mental health conditions: illness anxiety disorder and somatic symptom disorder.² “People who are having real medical and/or physical symptoms and they’re terrified about what they might meanthat’s typically understood as somatic symptom disorder,” Josh Spitalnick, PhD, a licensed psychologist and CEO of Anxiety Specialists of Atlanta, told Health. “And then there are people who worry about just getting a diseasegetting COVID, getting cancer, having a strokewhere there’s no real physical or medical symptoms.” That said, there isn’t always a clear distinction between the two, and a person might experience both at different times of their life.
Health anxiety can also be a feature of obsessive compulsive disorder ³, panic disorder, or other mental health conditions. It can also be something you experience to a lesser extent without quite meeting the criteria for any of these conditions. Basically, health anxiety exists on a spectrum, and many people can relate to feeling it at least some of the time.
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Talk About Your Worries
The COVID-19 outbreak is unlike anything we have experienced before, and it’s normal if you have felt worried, scared or helpless.
Remember: it’s OK to share your concerns with others you trust and doing so may help them too.
If you cannot speak to someone you know or if doing so has not helped, there are plenty of helplines you can try instead.
You Believe Everyone You Love Will Die From The Virus
Excessive worry over your health often prompts you to jump to the worst-case scenario. Having a debilitating fear of doing an activity and only being able to envision a catastrophic outcome from performing the activity is a sign that you have heightened anxiety, McNeil said.
Yes, severe disease and death is an outcome of COVID-19. But there are also other outcomes. Yes, its possible you can catch the virus at the store. But there are also preventive measures you can take to ensure youre safe.
You dont need to live in the world, treating yourself as if your worst-case scenario has already happened, McNeil added. You are punishing yourself with unnecessary pain now and stripping yourself of the ability to be present in the moment so that you can take necessary precautions or to have your wits around you as you enter a potentially unsafe situation.
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Cumulative Monthly Death Totals By Country
The table below contains the cumulative number of monthly deaths from the pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 reported by each country and territory to the World Health Organization and published in the WHO’s spreadsheets and tables updated daily. See COVID-19 pandemic deaths for expanded tables, 2020 table, first half of 2021, and more info. Initial sort order below is for the latest month shown.
Youre Overusing Hand Sanitizer And Other Disinfectants
There is nothing wrong with taking safety precautions, but when you are constantly dousing yourself and your groceries in disinfectant, it demonstrates you dont trust the advice from experts and are being overly cautious, said Dana McNeil, a marriage and family therapist and founder of The Relationship Place in San Diego.
Hygiene is important hygiene theater especially when it stems from anxiety should be addressed. When the urge to be overprotective strikes, McNeil said to remind yourself that youre taking the proper precautions already. One good-size squirt of hand sanitizer should remove the germs you dont need four to five coats to do the trick. If you cant ignore the overwhelming pull to over-clean, its definitely worth chatting with a mental health professional.
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Data Sources And How To Use These Charts
The data on confirmed cases and confirmed deaths shown in these visualizations is updated daily and is published by Johns Hopkins University, the best available global dataset on the pandemic.
The data on testing was collected by us more detail can be found here.
How to use these charts:
- On many charts it is possible to add any country by clicking on Add country.
- Other charts can only show the data for one country at a time these charts have a change country option in the bottom left corner of the chart.
- Many charts have a blue adjustable time-slider underneath the charts.
Licensing and how to embed our charts
We license all charts under Creative Commons BY and they can be embedded in any site. Here is how.
Country-by-country data on the pandemic
This page has a large number of charts on the pandemic. In the box below you can select any country you are interested in or several, if you want to compare countries.
All charts on this page will then show data for the countries that you selected.
The doubling time of confirmed deaths
Confirmed COVID-19 deaths by country
Total confirmed COVID-19 deaths
Are countries bending the curve for COVID-19 deaths?
Trajectories of total deaths
Trajectories of per capita deaths
Reasons Anxiety Can Be Your Friend
- Think about healing from any injury. Physical therapy is critical to make sure you keep down the scarring and maintain your range of motion. Why would the lungs be any different? Physical therapy can be painful if and when it is working.
If things with your anxiety and depression get really bad, then get online treatment. NY State has set up free online counseling using this hotline : 1-844-863-9314. Always reach out and get help. You are not alone.
Baig AM, Khaleeq A, Ali U, Syeda H. Evidence of the COVID-19 Virus Targeting the CNS: Tissue Distribution, Host-Virus Interaction, and Proposed Neurotropic Mechanisms. ACS Chem Neurosci. 2020 11:995998. doi:10.1021/acschemneuro.0c00122
Netland J. Meyerholz D. K. Moore S. Cassell M. Perlman S. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus infection causes neuronal death in the absence of encephalitis in mice transgenic for human ACE2. J. Virol. 82 , 726475. 10.1128/JVI.00737-08.
Mao L, Jin H, Wang M, et al. Neurologic Manifestations of Hospitalized Patients With Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Wuhan, China. JAMA Neurol. Published online April 10, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2020.1127
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Causes Of Covid Anxiety Syndrome
Researchers suggest that, for some, isolation, fear of contracting COVID-19, and uncertainty throughout the pandemic may have pointed to the group of symptoms that make up CAS.
They also suspect that Big 5 personality traits can play a role in its evolution. Those with a high level of neuroticism may possess a greater chance of developing CAS. In contrast, those who are highly extroverted, agreeable, and open may have a lower risk.
Additionally, those with obsessive-compulsive disorder may also be more at risk, as COVID-19 concerns may amplify the condition. Researchers expect there to be groups of people continuously worrying about COVID and avoiding anything that may increase their risk. However, research is only in the early stages, and various complex factors need to be considered.
Symptoms Of Depression And Anxiety During The Early Phase Of The Covid
- Department of Psychology and Social Work, Mid Sweden University, Östersund, Sweden
In this cross-sectional study we aimed to assess symptoms of depression and anxiety at an early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to explore factors predictive of these mental health outcomes. A sample of 1,503 participants, recruited from the general Swedish population, completed an online survey distributed through social media. In this sample, 22.2% reported clinically significant levels of depressive symptoms and 10.9% indicated possible major depression using the PHQ-9 algorithm. Moreover, 28.3% reported clinically significant levels of anxiety and 9.7% severe anxiety and possible GAD . Multiple linear regression analyses identified some common predictors for both outcomes. Age, having a stable income, and sufficient social stimulation, sleep, and recovery showed negative associations, whereas worry about the economy and overall burden showed positive associations. These results suggest an impact on mental health already at an early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
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What To Do Now
So youve checked your temperature and you have a fever. Or you dont have a fever but you have other symptoms, like a cough. Youre still not certain if you have anxiety or something else.
At this point, it would be a good idea to contact your doctor and see what advice they offer. If you do have something besides a panic attack going on, you dont want to delay getting help. And even if youre pretty certain its anxiety but still arent 100% sure, getting reassurance from a medical expert could be helpful.
If, however, youre convinced that youre dealing with a panic attack, here are a few things you can do to reign your anxiety in.
When Should I Seek Help
Generally speaking, overcoming reactions to stress, anxiety and depression is possible. Still, some unease may persist for some weeks or months, and even worsen. The following may be signs that your state of health is deteriorating.
These signs may mean that your personal resources no longer suffice to manage your worries on a daily basis. Seeking help could be beneficial.
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What Does Anxiety Mean
Contrary to fear, which is a response to a well-defined and very real threat, anxiety is a response to a vague or unknown threat. Anxiety manifests itself when we believe that a dangerous or unfortunate event may take place and are expecting it. Everyone experiences anxiety at their own individual degree and intensity. How the anticipated event is perceived will greatly influence the intensity of the anxiety experience.
What To Watch For
McIntyre says there are some warning signs to watch for. Some symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, and changes in appetite are common when a person is sick with COVID-19 as well as during their recovery. However, other symptoms are red flagssuch as suicidal thoughts or feelings of apathy toward life.
You should also watch for signs of paranoiawhich might feel like your mind is playing tricks on you.
What is also important, is when somebody is finding that the symptoms that were describing are really beginning to interfere with their day-to-day function,” McIntyre says. “That is an indication to me that that person should probably speak to a care provider.
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