It is no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic affected the personal, professional and social lives of Americans in unprecedented ways. The fast-spreading virus caused the country—and world—to scramble to adjust and develop new strategies to accomplish everyday tasks.
Although the pandemic has not ended, it is estimated that about half of Americans have been vaccinated against the virus which claimed more than 600 thousand lives in the U.S. alone.
Social scientists and psychologists have warned of the toll the coronavirus pandemic may take on our collective mental health as a nation. After more than a year of shut downs, social distancing, and other interruptions and delays, the public health crisis has likely affected your mental health in several ways.
Here are some changes you may notice in yourself that are completely understandable given the collective trauma we have experienced as a country.
- Increased anxiety or paranoia. Uncertainty and the fear of the unknown can increase symptoms of anxiety. Media coverage of global crises and horror stories shared through social media can also elevate paranoia.
- Stress. Social isolation raises the stress hormone Cortisol in our systems, which can lead to impaired cognitive performance and a compromised immune system, says Dr. Amy Sullivan of the Cleveland Clinic.
- Irritability. A review of 24 studies of quarantine during disease found that most reported negative psychological effects, including PTSD symptoms, confusion and anger.
- Grief or sadness. Grief expert David Kessler shared with the Harvard Business Review that the human race is feeling a collective grief around the loss of normalcy, the fear of economic toll, and the loss of connection caused by the pandmeic.
- Depression. Social rhythm reinforcers—such as going to work, school, or social events—help regulate and maintain our moods. Without them, our emotional and mental states are affected, says Simon Rego, chief psychologist at Montefiore Health System.
If you notice any of these symptoms have increased during the pandemic and have not subsided, you should speak with a mental health professional.
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