Posted on Feb 04, 2021, 3 p.m.
According to a recent survey of 2,000 American adults, 1 in 6 started therapy for the first time during 2020, adding to the 31% of Americans who are already attending therapy or returning to therapy that year.
Respondents reported several reasons for seeking therapy, including 45% confirming that the recent outbreak of COVID-19 was the main driving reason that prompted them to start counseling, with only 15% saying that the current global public health issue did not damage their state of mental health. 15% of respondents began taking medication for mental health issues for the first time in 2020, and another 15% changed or increased their prescription dosages.
88% of respondents report at least one symptom that is indicative of mental health trauma, and 68% reported saying that they feel like they are defeated going into 2021 with 63% saying that that pandemic is to blame.
47% reported that they believed that entering therapy was a sign of weakness, but that is not true, seeking help for overwhelming anxiety, depression, stress or another mental challenge is a sign of strength, and it is a necessity for many during the imposed lockdowns and restrictions.
“Americans often place other priorities above their own mental health needs, not just because of stigma but because of time. They often see work, home and social responsibilities as being more important than their personal health and well-being. But just as they tell you on airplanes when the oxygen masks come down, we can’t help others if we don’t take care ourselves first,” said Chris Mosunic, Ph.D., and chief clinical officer at Vida Health.
“The bottom line is that there are many ways to improve your mental well being,” he added. “You just have to choose a path you feel comfortable with and can take ownership of.”
59% report being more interested in mindfulness now than they were pre-COVID, and 60% report feeling more aware of and in touch with their emotions than ever before. The most popular forms of therapy were: 40% preferring both virtual and in-person therapy, 38% reporting counseling, 35% talk therapy, 27% cognitive-behavioral therapy, 25% text therapy, 22% psychodynamic therapy, 20% dialectical behavioral therapy, 18% humanistic therapy, and 17% reporting couples therapy.
Results come as no surprise as around the world many people are battling their own personal crisis as a result of the pandemic and the accompanying mandates and restrictions influencing everything from jobs/finances and shopping to interactions with family members and close friends causing physical separation, emotional anxiety, and mental exhaustion.
Winter months can be difficult for many due to seasonal affective disorder, add the restrictions and mandates to this and a sizable portion of the population is struggling with mental health during a winter unlike any other in recent memory. 62% of the respondents report feeling more depressed during the winter, and 32% winter as being the worst season for their mental health.
Symptoms of SAD can include but are not limited to oversleeping, intense cravings for carbs, overeating, gaining weight, trouble concentrating, withdrawing socially, and avoiding engaging in typical daily activities. If any of these seems familiar light therapy may help to give your mood a needed boost, and it can help to increase your vitamin D levels which is helpful in treating SAD as well as giving a boost to your immune system to help ward off infectious diseases during these darker months.
88% of respondents reported having symptoms of mental health trauma including 52% reporting little to no pleasure in doing things, 52% having trouble falling or staying asleep, and 51% feeling down, depressed or hopeless. High levels of depression, anxiety, and PTSD were also reported among young American adults aged 18-30 years old. Another research team is looking into the psychosocial impacts of this outbreak.
“Disease itself multiplied by forced quarantine to combat COVID-19 applied by nationwide lockdowns can produce acute panic, anxiety, obsessive behaviors, hoarding, paranoia, and depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the long run.”
Most experts can agree that disruptions to traditional grief rituals including the ability to say goodbye and viewing/burial of a loved one are likely to increase symptoms of prolonged grief disorder. To add to this being forced to go through the loss and grieving process in imposed social isolation without the benefits and comfort of long-held bereavement rituals is a “recipe for a psychiatric pandemic,” according to the research from the Iran University of Medical Sciences.
The researchers from the Iran University of Medical Sciences are among many who are trying to highlight the fact that the prolonged imposed restrictions and mandates are increasing the very real likelihood of PGD making an already difficult life event even harder to process. The profound disruptions can compound mental health challenges and lead to a cycle of unresolved bereavement, depression, and PTSD as humans are being robbed of their ability to participate in compassionate age-old bereavement rituals.
“Millions of people around the world have experienced the loss of a loved one due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Given the restrictive lockdown regulations and stay-at-home orders, most of these individuals did not get a chance to say goodbye to their loved ones, properly to have a funeral/ceremony for their loss or to bury them.
As a result, millions of individuals have not experienced a regular grief cycle that enables individuals to rapidly adjust to the situation and recover themselves.”
Alarmingly 68% of the respondents reported feeling defeated going into 2021, with 63% saying that the outbreak has taken the wind out of their sails, 45% reporting not being able to enjoy pre-COVID activities; and 45% being deflated by the election, 35% by the spread of misinformation, and 30% being deflated by the 24/7 “news” cycle.
Drastic changes have taken place during the past year, with it many have been neglecting their own personal health, with over half of the respondents saying that they feel too overwhelmed to make their health a priority and 56% reporting that they are struggling to find an effective wellness routine.
Another stress survey from The American Psychological Association revealed similar findings; high levels of stress-related to coronavirus are common for parents, while people of color are more likely than white adults to report the outbreak was causing significant stress in their lives, in particular fears of becoming infected and having access to basic needs and healthcare services.
Some estimates predict that up to 75,000 people may die from drug or alcohol misuse and suicide during this pandemic, according to a report by the Well Being Trust and the Robert Graham Center for Policy Studies in Family Medicine and Primary Care. These kinds of deaths are called deaths of despair, and they are expected to be exacerbated by three factors at play; the unprecedented economic failure paired with massive unemployment, the mandated social isolation for prolonged months and possible residual isolation for years, and the uncertainty that was caused by the sudden emergence of a novel microbe.
Although it will not be fully clear of the full mental health fallout from this pandemic for years, it has already been discovered that the prevalence of depression symptoms has increased by more than threefold going from 8.5% pre-COVID to 27.8% during the outbreak. Exposure to a greater number of stressors was associated with an increased risk of depression, as well as having a lower income and having less than $5,000 in saving during the pandemic with the latter being associated with a 1.5 fold increase in the risk of depression representing a 50% greater risk of depression symptoms. The prolonged social distancing and isolation are only exacerbating the problem with social isolation increasing the likelihood of mortality by 29% and loneliness increasing it by 26%.
According to a review published in The Lancet investigating the psychological impact of quarantine, “Most reviewed studies reported negative psychological effects including post-traumatic stress symptoms, confusion and anger.” out of 2,760 quarantine people, 34& experienced high levels of psychological distress which could include depression. A number of stressors during quarantines were noted including: longer quarantine duration, infection fears, frustration, boredom, inadequate supplies, inadequate information, financial loss, and stigma.
During this trying time, it is important not to ignore your mental health and try your best to maintain positive habits. Physical exercise has been shown to act as a natural antidepressant, a quick search online can provide a variety of different free workouts to follow along with online that you can do at home ranging from yoga and tai chi to HIIT and Crossfit to Zumba and dance fitness. Going outside for a walk in nature can also be mentally soothing. Reach out to friends and family if you are feeling isolated. Releasing negative emotions of feelings of stress and anxiety that are directly related to the outbreak is recommended.
Emotional Freedom Techniques have been developed to help those facing PTSD or other serious mental health challenges that can be done anywhere in only a few minutes. For general anxiety, stress, and uneasiness related to trying times it may be worth looking into the mechanics of EFT to learn more about the wide-ranging application for better mental health. Click here to read the study “Clinical EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Improves Multiple Physiological Markers of Health” published in PMC concluding that “Reviews and meta-analyses of EFT demonstrate that it is an evidence-based practice and that its efficacy for anxiety, depression, phobias, and PTSD is well-established. The research investigating physiological improvements after EFT intervention is limited; however, this study adds to the body of literature and suggests that EFT is associated with multidimensional improvements across a spectrum of physiological systems.”
This pandemic and related mandates/restrictions are taking a stressful toll, if you or someone that you know is struggling mentally or emotionally, please seek help from a therapist, daily exercise might help, and you can try to connect with loved ones even if it is via live video, and by utilizing the Emotional Freedom Techniques. Cognitive-behavioral therapy may help, as well as mindfulness techniques and antidepressants to help reduce your risk of depression. You do not have to struggle alone.
SAMHSA National Helpline= 1-800-622-HELP(4357)
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline= 1-800-273-TALK(8255)
Crisis Text HotLine= Text “HELLO” to 741741
The Samaritans Emotional Support=1-877-870-HOPE(4673)
Disaster Distress Helpline= 1-800-985-5590
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.
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