How is the COVID pandemic affecting mental health?

Stress is a typical and expected response to any type of crisis. Still, it can increase dramatically when the crisis is unprecedented, as the COVID-19 pandemic has been over the last year. People have been pushed to their emotional limits, and the roller coaster of uncertainty doesn’t help matters. 

Loss of loved ones, lockdowns, school closures, and loss of employment have taken an emotional toll on millions. Public health measures, such as masks and social distancing, are necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but they can also make us feel isolated and lonely, causing more stress and anxiety.

In today’s article, we’ll explore the impact of the COVID pandemic on mental health.

The pandemic is causing a mental health crisis

Over the past year, we’ve been faced with transitions such as distance learning and working from home. In addition, many have dealt with sudden unemployment or the constant fear of being laid off.

The lack of interaction and physical contact with family members and friends has taken a heavy emotional toll.  Fear of contracting the virus has been a source of constant worry and fear for medically compromised or those who have loved ones at high risk for complications from COVID-19. 

Recent studies have shown the devastating consequences that the pandemic has had on mental health.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC), “symptoms of anxiety disorder and depressive disorder increased considerably in the United States during April–June of 2020, compared with the same period in 2019”. A survey by the U.S Census Bureau in December of 2020 reported that 42% of people in the United States reported symptoms of depression or anxiety that month, compared to 11%  in  December of 2019. 

The mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

It’s no surprise that mental health issues have increased drastically due to the COVID-19 pandemic. School closures, loss of employment and income, and the fear of getting the virus were just a few sources of added stress for millions of people. 

As restrictions ease and people get vaccinated, many are still anxious about a post-COVID future. That feeling is perfectly normal.  The virus itself has been known to be unpredictable, and there’s a lot of uncertainty about what life will look like from now on. 

It’s hard to plan anything long-term, which makes people uneasy. 

There is also growing research on the mental health impacts on people who have had COVID-19.  One study found that one in five Covid-19 survivors was diagnosed with a mental health issue within 90 days of infection. Many of these people had no history of a psychiatric disorder before the pandemic.

For those who have become ill with the COVID-19 virus over the past year, physical symptoms such as headaches, shortness of breath, and fatigue may not be the only long-term effects they’re dealing with. Researchers have found that mental health issues such as depression, anxiety,  “brain fog,” and insomnia appear in COVID-19 patients – sometimes months after receiving treatment for the virus. Many are also showing signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and those who require hospitalization after severe cases are at high risk of developing post-intensive care syndrome (PICS).


How VR can help people cope with mental health issues brought on by the COVID-19

Virtual reality technology can help treat people who have developed mental health issues during the pandemic or whose mental health issues have been exacerbated. Amelia Virtual Care offers VR environments that help people deal with anxiety, depression, and agoraphobia, along with stress and trauma– all of which are issues that people have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Virtual reality allows therapy to be delivered at a distance and differs from traditional telemedicine because of its ability to put clients directly into virtual environments. The demand for PTSD and PICS therapy is only likely to increase as the pandemic wears on. VR offers the means to provide effective, custom therapy and evaluation services for their clients from a distance.

If you’re considering implementing virtual reality into your clinic or practice, contact us to set up a demo session. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have!