A study was conducted to explore the different degrees of psychological distress among different sections of the Indian society. The study published in
stated that the fear about the pandemic and its outcomes was all-pervasive. It was observed more among students and healthcare professionals.
In India, the first response to the pandemic has been fear and a sense of clear and imminent danger. Fears can be logical and sometimes based on misinformation circulating in the media. There are legitimate fears of contracting the COVID-19 infection, that every fever or cough is interpreted as infection. This can result in hoarding or using medication which is otherwise not indicated for generalized use.
People are genuinely worried about losing their jobs and economic slowdown after the pandemic. People have different ways of coping with fear, stress, and anxiety. While some can deal with stress in a healthy way, others have a maladaptive way of coping with stress. The Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has come up with a detailed mental health guideline to help mental health professionals manage the rise in mental health disorders due to the pandemic.
Mental health is an important part of overall health and general well-being. People with pre-existing mental health conditions can be particularly vulnerable to the situation as it can affect the person’s thinking, feeling, mood, or behavior in a way that influences their ability to function every day. It is imperative to get in touch with a mental healthcare professional if you or any of your loved ones display the following signs:
Sleep problems– Broken or disturbed sleep, having nightmares or the inability to sleep enough or well every night is a key indicator of faulty coping mechanisms for stress and anxiety. The inability to fall asleep fast tells you that your stress levels are off the charts.
No silver lining– If you are able to focus on only the COVID-19 and not to process any of the positive news about the world shows that you don’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. Being incapable of seeing beyond negativity may be a sign of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Crippling anxiety When feelings get to the point that you are unable to function normally could be a sign that you need help. While feeling helpless in the face of a threat might be normal, being constantly swamped with feelings of anxiety, dread and panic can make it next to impossible for you to take a break, recuperate and refresh yourself.
Stuck in survival mode– People can go into an apocalyptic mode and resort habits like hoarding, hibernating or obsessing over the smallest of lapses in safety measures. While this may be necessary at some point, constantly being stuck in survival mode can lead to emotional draining, fatigue and exhaustion. It then requires clinical support.
Loss of interest– At the beginning of the pandemic, many people resorted to recreational activities like cooking, reading, watching movies. Over time, the interest in these activities began to wane and did no longer bring any joy. Experiencing a complete loss of interest in such activities indicate that you need to talk to someone about your mental health.
Self-harm– If negative thoughts force you to engage in self-harming behaviors like cutting, burning or strangulation, or think persistently about committing suicide, then you should reach out for help immediately.
Anxiety and fear can lead to panic in some people and panic-driven behaviors like unnecessarily getting tested, and hoarding of food supplies to a point where it is not available to those in need. Some people can function in denial, where they do not accept the seriousness of the situation to avoid fear and anxiety. Such behaviors can endanger their lives as well as the lives of people around them.
It is better always to take a middle stance when it comes to the coronavirus pandemic. The best practices include good hand hygiene, staying home when you feel sick, and having a plan in case you need to self-isolate.