Anxiety and Depression Associated With COVID-19

June 16, 2020

Rising numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths are sweeping the globe. A vaccine is nowhere in sight. The economy is teetering on the brink of disaster with an unemployment rate the highest it has been since the Great Depression. Such are the announcements about the coronavirus on every major news channel recently. With the future uncertain, there is no wonder why feelings of depression and anxiety are now being reported in households nationwide, regardless of income, racial, political affiliation, or other demographic lines.

Defining Anxiety and its Effects

Anxiety, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), is “an emotion brought about by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes.” Currently, anxiety affects 40 million people in the U.S. alone.

Contrary to popular belief, anxiety is not a negative or isolated feeling. It is something all of us feel. In fact, it is part of the brain’s functions. Moreover, people react to stress differently. Those who give in more to stress include the following people:

  • Senior citizens
  • People with chronic diseases
  • Children and adolescents
  • First responders to COVID-19
  • Those with mental health issues

Triggers of Anxiety During COVID-19     

The tricky thing about COVID-19 is that we don’t have an exact timeline as to when things will improve. Thus, anxiety begins to build up. Here are the things that could cause it:

  • News and updates about the infection
    With scientists far from flattening the curve, people are anxious about what will happen in the future.
  • Effect on a loved one
    If you happen to know someone who has been affected by the coronavirus you may feel devastated. You may also feel that you will be next.
  • Staying at home for a long period of time
    Being isolated at home also leads to feelings of depression. You begin to do things that you had not imagined doing and don’t get joy from.
  • Stimulants like coffee and chocolate
    Reading the news, coupled with a cup of joe could make things worse.  In fact, the consumption of stimulants in general may aggravate anxiety.

Solutions to Fight Anxiety

Both practitioners and patients are now itching to get outside after COVID-19, but we are not yet clear where to start. Here are some helpful tips to promote wellness and instill recovery.

  • While at Home
    • Don’t traumatize yourself by watching too much news or binge watching/reading horror stories
      We know you want to get as many updates as you can about the COVID-19 pandemic. However, taking in too much information can prevent you from maintaining a calm composure. If you have to check the news, consult the official figures with the CDC and WHO. Also, stay tuned to Benco’s website for updates.
    • Slow diaphragmatic breathing
      An imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the brain kickstarts the sympathetic nervous system, which makes us more anxious. Counteract this by breathing through your nose to the count of 4, hold momentarily, then breathe out. This technique introduces the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms us down.
    • Avoid stimulants and caffeine
      Sometimes you need a good jolt when you have things to do. However, as mentioned above, if you suffer from anxiety, it is best to hold off on stimulants. These can worsen the anxiety that you already have.

 

  • Post-Quarantine
    • Treat staff like family
      Because of the closures caused by COVID-19, it can be reassuring to confide, encourage, and engage your colleagues once this is all over. Twenty-five percent of people leave their jobs because employers don’t show empathy towards their situation. Impart leadership qualities like sympathy and camaraderie when dealing with your people.
    • Be transparent on needs and issues
      Show that you are empathetic with the concerns of others. Don’t hold back. In addition, exert a sense of control. Control can shield people from feelings of anxiety.
    • Cognitive restructuring of actions and speech
      It is time to overhaul the conversation practices that you’ve employed for so long. Be more caring; everyone is experiencing some degree of fear today. Medical practitioners, for example, also have to make significant changes in their communication techniques in order to converse appropriately with their clientele.

Recovering from COVID may take a while, and the anxiety it brings can take a toll on you. With emotional support, however, your practice will be up and running again. Be caring and understanding toward your staff and patients as we carefully ease our way out of this crisis together.

How to Effectively Cope with COVID-19-Related Depression

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a number of startling developments, most notably because people are locked in their homes due to quarantine countermeasures.  Along with anxiety, depression is one of the more common emotions that has become a concern for people everywhere.

What is Depression?

The American Psychiatric Association (APA) defines depression as “a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act.”

A great amount of care should be utilized when dealing with people who are experiencing depression. There are two ways people deal with depression: some internalize it and others express it outwardly on the people they encounter.  Both behaviors can be severely damaging if not addressed appropriately.

Effects of Depression

  • Hopelessness and Helplessness
    Just the circumstance of being forced to stay indoors can be very upsetting for some people. They may also feel helpless due to the lack of a vaccine or treatment.
  • Eating and Sleeping Issues
    Depression creates imbalance in a person’s habits. People either eat or sleep too much, or neglect food and rest altogether. This can cause mood swings, which are indicative of depression.
  • Non-bereavement related loss
    There is a feeling of loss, not related to death, but the feeling is quite similar. People can feel disjointed and helpless as a result.
  • Social Disconnection/ Loneliness
    Staying at home alone for an extended period of time is not only boring, but it also contributes to listlessness. Rereading books and rewatching your favorite series can only give you pleasure to a certain extent, and it may ultimately deprive you of human connection.

What Causes Depression During COVID-19

  • Staying Indoors
    The spread of a pandemic can cause anybody to feel isolated from the world. In addition, the feeling of monotony can get to just about everybody after a while.
  • Lack of Communication
    Living by yourself can drive you to feel lonely, and even disconnected from the rest of the world.

 Ways to Fight Depression

 A depressed state of being can sting. But there is a way to get through quarantine life while preserving your sanity. Follow these fool-proof tips to combat depression.

  • Exercising
    By maintaining productive activities while at home, you will be able to shake off depressive tendencies. It also increases serotonin levels and provides adrenaline which helps you get rid of depression.
  • Mindfulness activities
    Live in the moment and choose to be optimistic.  Download a mindfulness app to keep your brain going.  Also, instruct your patients to engage in mindfulness exercises as well.
  • Help people handle survivor guilt
  • People usually experience guilt after being lone survivors of catastrophic events such as COVID-19. You need to comfort them and reassure them that it’s not their fault.

Even in the midst of a greater health crisis, the battle against depression is still crucial. The important thing to do is to reach out to the affected party, and have a conversation with them. Afterwards, make them feel that they are loved and that they have a friend.

  

Q&A’s Asked During the Webinar:

Q: How do we avoid letting our stress rub off on others and vice versa? Of having their stress enhance and increase the amount of stress that we’re feeling?

Dr. Howard Gurr: Well, again, you know, the issue for me is to control, predict, and limit the discomfort. But it goes to the idea that in terms of your question, there’s a lot of, I guess, misinformation and anxiety and paranoia and a lot of stuff out there that people are transmitting and communicating because they really don’t have answers. If we allow that information to set us off a path that we’ve set up for ourselves, you know, change our trajectory, we’re letting information that really isn’t useful overwhelm us. So it’s important to kind of keep everything in perspective and not let other people’s anxiety invade your own, and again, vice versa. So it’s recognizing our thoughts and feelings and not letting other people’s thoughts and feelings send us into a tailspin, so to speak.

 

Q: What about having anxiety of actually going back to work and possibly being exposed to the virus eight hours a day?

Dr. Howard Gurr:  That’s why I said in reality, this is a situation that’s been kind of odd for us because most people do not have the fears, the anxieties and the phobias. At the same time. And so there is reality to the anxiety about going back to work and being exposed. That’s a real threat. And so, again, I think from from my point of view, control has always been our best friend, so to speak, and control or the sense of control tends to reduce anxiety. You know, if you even think from a parenting perspective, parents, yellow kids, when they feel like they’re out of control or the kid has more control than the parent. So it’s this concept of being in control. So in terms of going back to work, I think that the hope is that when we do go back to work is enough PPE and enough knowledge base so that we could prepare ourselves and protect ourselves from any kind of infection from the virus.

 

Q: When we eventually get back to work, how do we handle our team’s fears and feelings and not let those feelings influence our patients?

Dr. Howard Gurr: I think the knowledge of how to control the environment in the dental office so that we are safe as providers and we keep ourselves as viral free as possible in all circumstances is the way to reduce the team’s anxiety as well. So I think from my perspective, I’m not a dentist, so take it for what it’s worth. But I think practice is across the board. We’re going to have to make some changes in terms of how they deal with patients. But it’s not just dentists. I think every one of us is going to have to make changes. My practice is I do virtual reality therapy and I have people wear head mounted displays to get them immersed in a virtual environment. Well, that’s not happening now. And when it does kick up again, I’m going to have to do things like besides just using alcohol wipes. I bought a QVC machines to be able to disinfect the head mounted displays. So now I’m going to do that right for my patients. So they’ll see that head not the display is now being disinfected right in front of them. So I think that there are practices and procedures that are probably going to have to change. And I think that in life, this particular experience is going to change lots of aspects of our lives because we’ve never had. An event like this that has been so broad and so out of control and so we’re unprepared. You know, I think it was Mike Tyson who said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

 

Q (from Dr. Steven Katz): What will we see in our patients in the way of demands and belligerence that will really be displays of fear and anxiety?

Dr. Howard Gurr You’re right. That’s exactly what’s going to happen. Some patients are going to be more irritated and difficult, but that’s really an expression of your anxiety. If you look at all of your patients behaviors from the perspective, I don’t care what it is. It’s their method of protecting themselves from the perceived threat that they experience. Then you won’t get as irritated and annoyed because they’re completely doing what they think they need to do to make themselves safe.

And of course, we have a range of behaviors that make us feel safe, you know, extending. Some people will do everything and anything for everybody. Be nice to everybody else in the world, hoping that if they’re nice to everybody in the world, then I’m safe. No one’s gonna be angry at me. No one’s going to be difficult with me. And then you have the other under the extreme. People are just difficult and nasty. But that’s because they’re keeping people at a distance as well. Just a different approach.