Studies suggest that most people admitted to hospital with severe COVID-19 symptoms will recover without developing any form of mental illness. In the long-term however, some coronavirus survivors may be at risk of depression, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorder. The reasons for this can range from the medical, such as the effects of low blood-oxygen levels and viral infection on the central nervous system, to the social, such as the stigma surrounding the illness, concerns about infecting others and the impact of self isolation.
One study estimates the prevalence of PTSD among COVID-19 survivors to be at 33% and the prevalence of depression and anxiety to be at 15% approximately three years after the acute stage of the illness. Needless to say, the traumatic experience of intensive care will leave many scared but what impact does self isolation have on our mental well-being.
An article in Science Daily cited several studies that suggested self-isolation has a negative impact on what we call mood homeostasis – our ability to regulate our mood through activities. Humans try to maintain a stable mood-level throughout the day by choosing activities that will mellow us when feeling over energized or to cheer us up when feeling down. This has however become more difficult during the lockdown as the activities that we are able to do are limited. An extended period of self-isolation can leave people with an impaired mood homeostasis and in a depression that they are unable to get out of.
There is hope however! People can be trained to increase their mood homeostasis, either through online therapy sessions such as those offered by Wherapy, or in training videos such as the ones that will be available in the future via Wherapy+. There are other companies that are working on monitoring mood and suggesting activities in real time through apps. However, mood homeostasis isn’t as simple as doing something fun when you’re feeling down. It is culture specific, with religion being a mood-level raiser in low and middle income countries and exercise being one in high income countries.
What have you done to regulate your mood whilst self-isolating? Please let us know on our facebook page.