Survivors of COVID-19 are Facing New Mental Health Challenges
As of August 10, 2020, more than five million people in the United States have contracted the novel coronavirus. If you are one of these millions, you may be at an increased risk of developing mental health disorders. Furthermore, you may struggle with challenges such as gaslighting and survivor’s guilt.
No matter how severe your COVID-19 symptoms were or how long they last, taking care of your mental health should be near the top of your list of priorities.
COVID-19 Hospitalization and Mental Health Disorders
A new study found that more than half of patients who were hospitalized for COVID-19 meet the diagnostic criteria for at least one mental health disorder. Researchers believe that the high rates of mental health conditions in these patients may e linked to the inflammation that severe cases of COVID-19 can cause. The most common disorders found in these survivors included:
If you were hospitalized with COVID-19, it’s important to get screened for these conditions. You are not alone, and you do not have to deal with this alone. Expert mental health care providers can assess your mental health and find ways to help you.
Remember that mental health conditions are serious and even life-threatening. Just like you sought help for your physical health in your time of need, there’s no shame in seeking help for your mental health as well.
COVID-19 Survivors Face Doubt and Gaslighting
COVID-19 survivors also face mental health challenges when they speak to other people about what they went through and even lingering symptoms. For example, when other people write COVID-19 off as “no big deal” or even a hoax, this can emotionally hurt survivors. Although you know that the virus is real and serious, you may feel understandably hurt when people doubt the suffering you have endured.
Sometimes this doubt becomes gaslighting. The term “gaslighting” means manipulating another person into questioning their own experiences and sanity. Some people gaslight COVID-19 survivors by saying they don’t believe it was really so bad.
Furthermore, some COVID-19 survivors have lingering symptoms for months. If this is your experience, you may see gaslighting from people who say that your symptoms are “all in your head.” Whether your symptoms are bothering you due to mental illness or physical illness, they are real. For example, fatigue could be a lingering effect from COVID-19 or a symptom of depression. Either way, you deserve to be believed and treated with respect.
Survivor’s Guilt and COVID-19
While most people survive COVID-19, many do not. As of this writing, more than 163,000 people in the United States have passed away due to this virus. Whether you have had the virus or not, this number can be frightening.
For those who have contracted and survived the virus, knowing that others have not been as lucky can be difficult to grapple with. You may ask yourself why you survived and someone else didn’t. This feeling is known as survivor’s guilt, and it can be particularly intense if you personally know someone who died from COVID-19.
Therapy can help you cope with this intense, normal, and difficult feeling. You may also try a few of these coping strategies:
- Pay it forward: Perhaps the best way to combat survivor’s guilt is to help others. Donating to a charity or helping a neighbor can not only better your community, but also improve your mental health.
- Practice gratitude: Turn guilt into gratitude by taking time to appreciate what you have. Try keeping a gratitude journal and writing down three things that you’re thankful for every day.
- Recognize your challenges: While it’s important to practice gratitude, it’s equally important to recognize all that you have overcome. Whether it’s related to COVID-19 or not, it’s likely that you have faced plenty of obstacles in life. Similarly, avoid comparing your struggles to others’.
- Accept your emotions: Survivor’s guilt os a normal reaction to this type of situation. Don’t add to your struggles by feeling guilty about survivor’s guilt. Instead, embrace your feelings and give yourself the space to process them. That could mean going to therapy, journaling, or talking to a loved one.
If you’re struggling with your mental health in the wake of COVID-19, you’re not alone. Your feelings are real and valid. Most importantly, help is available. Our compassionate mental health care providers work together to create a personalized care plan for you. Whether you need psychiatric care, therapy, or both, we can help.