Since early 2020, researchers worldwide have been studying Covid-19 as it wreaks havoc across the globe. They’ve made a lot of discoveries about the nature of the virus, ways to treat it, and of course, there are several vaccines now that were developed in record time. But one aspect of Covid not much talked about is the effect it has on patients’ mental health.
We’ve talked about depression and stress due to the pandemic at large, and at my psychiatry practice, I’ve discovered “Cave syndrome” where perfectly healthy people become traumatized and agoraphobic. But I’ve also seen a troubling mental health trend among patients of mine who recently suffered from the Covid and now struggle with a dramatic downturn in their moods, emotions, and affect.
Nine out of ten Covid patients who see me on a telemedicine call report a lingering sense of what I like to call “Covid dysphoria.” Oftentimes when someone catches a cold or the flu they can develop a bit of mild depressive symptoms or general malaise alongside it. But Covid dysphoria seems to dig a little deeper.
After about with coronavirus a lot of my patients are not just suffering mild depressive symptoms - they have a more complete personality change. They don’t lose memories and become completely different people, but they say things like “My friends tell me I’m not like myself” or “I’m usually such a cheerful person! What happened?”
As researchers discover more about Covid’s effect on neurology, they’ve found the virus in the brains and spines of sufferers. It is slowly becoming more clear that Covid infection might have troubling repercussions for peoples’ mental health.
Not to mention there’s another angle from which Covid strikes at someone's mental health: narcissistic deflation. The very idea of becoming infected can make one feel as if they’re a pariah, now shunned and looked down upon even though it may only be in their own mind. It’s been a topic in peoples’ minds and on the news for so long, the psychological impact of knowing one caught it can even erode their sense of self because there are so many negatives associated with it.
This just serves to heighten the severity of Covid dysphoria.
Luckily for sufferers of Covid dysphoria, there are a few pointers that can help them feel less hopeless and more confident that they’ll overcome this bump in the psychological road.
During our consultations and meetings I like to assure them that there are very few “chronic” cases of Covid dysphoria. It may last longer than one wants, and it may feel pervasive and unpleasant - but it is self limited in most cases. It does tend to go away on its own and with relaxation techniques and a bit of talk therapy, a lot of people can get on the other side of it.
When Covid dysphoria is particularly severe or long-lasting is when we need to get a bit more proactive. Usually, I’ll prescribe talk therapy, as this can help considerably with the external factors leading to it: the stigma, the fears, and so on. Medication management is important too - however since we’re dealing with a real physical infection of Covid, we pay extra careful attention to the medications we prescribe. The health of the patient always comes first.
Of course, oftentimes the people hit worst by Covid dysphoria have comorbidities. Depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other disorders can be triggered or worsened by Covid infection. It’s important to be aware of these diagnoses, and to take that into consideration when treating for Covid dysphoria.
If you think you may be suffering from a mental health downturn after a Covid infection, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Bregman Medical Group offers online treatment right to your device, and we have decades treating a multitude of disorders. Simply schedule an appointment at www.bregmanmd.com or give us a call at 786-321-4909.