The long-term mental health effects of COVID-19 remain a mystery

Jordan Reid is the founding editor of Ramshackle Glam.
Liberal Opinion

Jordan Reid

Author; Founding Editor, Ramshackle Glam
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While most people with COVID-19 get better after a few days to a few weeks after infection, the CDC suggests post-COVID-19 conditions generally appear four weeks after infection. Common symptoms include fatigue, anxiety, and — at times — other symptoms harder to explain. Straight Arrow News contributor Jordan Reid describes her current bout with post-COVID-19 and its unknown mental health effects:

I feel awful. I had Covid about a month ago and am still experiencing some of the aftereffects — mostly lethargy — but I can’t really blame how I’m feeling on the virus because I wasn’t exactly feeling sparkly and vivacious beforehand. And I’m typically a pretty energetic person so the fact that for the past few years all I’ve wanted to do was sleep — it merits notice. 

I’m not alone here. I would say that 80% of my friends and family to whom I’ve mentioned this sort of extended malaise are feeling similarly.

They’re depressed, or overwhelmed, by seemingly small things. They’re deeply, deeply anxious. And the feeling doesn’t seem to be going away.

Of course it’s not just the grownups feeling the mental weight of years of lockdowns, economic insecurity, fears for the physical and mental well being of themselves and others, not to mention everything else from racial injustice to global instability to the never-ending procession of school shootings.

Our children have also been subjected to what amounts to an extended social experiment with unknown outcomes. 

The pandemic has had an unquestionably massive effect on virtually everyone, whether they fell ill themselves or suffered the loss of a loved one, or lost their job or “just” suffered through the depression and anxiety that comes with all of this. But the mental health implications long-term of Covid — they remain a mystery. 

Generally speaking, the pandemic has been tied to worsening psychiatric symptoms. The World Health Organization, for example, reported a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide.

I feel awful. I had Covid about a month ago and am still experiencing some of the aftereffects — mostly lethargy — but I can’t really blame how I’m feeling on the virus because I wasn’t exactly feeling sparkly and vivacious beforehand. And I’m typically a pretty energetic person so the fact that for the past few year all I’ve wanted to do was sleep, it merits notice. 

I’m not alone here. I’d would say that 80% of my friends and family to whom i’ve mentioned this sort of extended malaise are feeling similarly.

They’re depressed, or overwhelmed by seemingly small things. They’re deeply, deeply anxious. And the feeling doesn’t seem to be going away.

Of course it’s not just the grownups feeling the mental weight of years of lockdowns, economic insecurity, fears for the physical and mental well being of themselves and others, not to mention everything else from racial injustice to global instability to the never-ending procession of school shootings.

Our children have also been subjected to what amounts to an extended social experiment with unknown outcomes. 

The pandemic has had an unquestionably massive effect on virtually everyone, whether they fell ill themselves or suffered the loss of a loved one, or lost their job or “just” suffered through the depression and anxiety that comes with all of this. But the mental health implications long-term of Covid — they remain a mystery. 

Generally speaking, the pandemic has been tied to worsening psychiatric symptoms. The World Health Organization, for example, reported a 25% increase in the prevalence of anxiety and depression worldwide. 

And the increased exposure to stress has resulted in increase in what experts refer to as incivility — basically, rudeness — as anyone who’s been on an airplane in the last year or so can attest. 

Eating disorders  have increased by approximately 25% and substance abuse issues have skyrocketed.

But how people adapt to significant life changes, it depends on countless factors, and so the mental health ramifications of Covid on the individual are going to be necessarily varied.

Some people, for example, might react by start focusing more on their own mental health and wellness while others might focusing more on world events and deprioritize their own well-being. Screen time and virtual interactions are way, way up — and remote work and online interaction is going to have an outsized impact for the foreseeable future. 

And of course in many individuals this can lead to feelings of isolation and depression and anxiety, but it can also create opportunities for increased connectivity and inclusivity, and even a better work/life balance. 

All this said, perhaps one of the fundamental problems here is that we’re all trying to get “back to normal.” Except time doesn’t go in reverse, we can’t evolve backwards. 

Perhaps the best possible outcome is not a return to so-called normalcy, but rather an acknowledgement of what the pandemic showed us about our shared humanity — our need for connection, and empathy, and community — and an acknowledgment of the preciousness of human life — both our own, and that of others.


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