Virus Fear Causing Mental Health Issues In People: Docs

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country and the subsequent lockdown to curb its spread, the psychological effects of the coronavirus, especially on mental health of people, have become a poignant concern for health experts.

Doctors say that most patients with pre-existing conditions like anxiety and depression are having a difficult time and that they are witnessing a surge of such mental health illness, due to fear of coronavirus.

According to Rajiv Mehta, Psychiatrist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital here, in Delhi Problems related to depression and anxieties are on the rise these days in patients who are already are depressed.

“Most common problem patients are complaining of is that they are depressed and anxious. Even if they have a minor cough, then get depressed and anxious that they could have contracted COVID-19 and also transferred the virus to othersm,” Mehta said.

Taking about the behavioural changes observed in his patients, Dr Mehta said,” They keep ruminating on a single thought. They keep thinking about what will happen and how they can be saved. Anxiety and panic like dryness of mouth, palpitations and nausea is observed,” he said.

The physician said they had divided people in groups -children, previously depressed, not depressed people and old people. “Most problems related to anxiety and depression are coming from the already depressed in these time of coronavirus outbreak in the country,” he said.

He also cited that for those who are not depressed are just anxious about their job and the economy. “They also feel friction in relationships with family due to lockdown.” For those who are retired and old, they have their own lifestyles and feel friction with family as they are not allowed to go outside or live their normal lifestyle. Another cause of worry for some is the issue of acohol withdrawal. “We got one such case which was serious but got treated in time,” Dr Mehta said.

The doctor said measures put in place by the government such as teleconsultation has come as a great relief. “The government has allowed teleconsultation between doctors and patients which is a great step and this is helping in treatment of people.”

According to Dr Nand Kumar, professor of psychiatric department at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), most patients with mental health issues face a lack of social connectivity due to the ongoing lockdown.

“I am personally calling up my patients for their follow up consultations over phone. A major challenge for those who have been already diagnosed is that they face a relapse in their condition due to the absence of social connectivity and unavailability of medicines.”

At the Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in the national capital, doctors narrated a similar situation.

Dr Smitha Desphande, head of psychiatric department at RML Hospital said that mental health illness cannot be ignored.

“We are getting patients who are having serious relapse of their existing mental health complication due to scare of COVID-19. Patients with bi-polar disorder, anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder are suffering the most. Lot of our patients are now unable to visit the hospital due to unavailability of transport. With this, we assume that OPDs would see upsurge in mental health issues once the lockdown is over.”

The union health ministry in collaboration with experts from AIIMS and National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) has developed innovative activities for people to boost their mental health during the period of lockdown in the country in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak. (ANI)

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