The novel coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID 19 has been ravaging the world for several months. And, it will likely have a lasting effect for even longer. For how long, no one truly knows. One thing for certain though is that life has changed because of it, but to what extent is still not entirely known. As this question looms, the United States is slowly starting to reopen.
Learning about COVID-19
Over this time, we have learned much about COVID 191. According to an infectious disease expert at the University of Chicago, it is a new form of coronavirus, which is a large class of viruses that cause the common cold and other respiratory illnesses. It was first seen as early as November 2019 and may have started in Wuhan, China. The coronavirus is highly infectious via respiratory droplets. It is unclear exactly what distance is required to minimize transmission risk but six feet is thought to be the magic number. The further the better though. Strict hand hygiene is extremely important as droplets that land on surfaces can then infect others who touch the same objects. We also know that there are some asymptomatic people who are infected with COVID 19 and potentially spreading it without knowing. This is why everyone wearing masks is so important, to protect yourself and others, along with hand hygiene. One of the earlier signs appears to be low oxygen saturation in the blood. After about 5-6 days, you can expect to develop cough, body aches, shortness of breath, sore throat, and/or fever. And as time goes on, we continue to learn more and more.
Lockdown March 2020
The lockdown in Illinois started March 21, 2020. This was felt to be the best way to flatten the curve and slow the spread of the virus. And in hindsight, it seems to have worked. The curve has flattened and the numbers are looking improved. Despite not having a vaccine, the world is looking to reopen. Our economies have suffered. The rate of deaths and new infections are improving. Therefore, the governments are looking to restart the economy before we lose too much. This will appease those who have been protesting the lockdowns throughout the country. However, there are some people who remain anxious about reopening.
Anxiety on the Rise
This pandemic has created a rollercoaster of emotions for many people. Their finances are being depleted, so reopening the economy makes sense. However, without a vaccine, many people are anxious2 about getting sick. According to a WebMD online survey, 26% felt a sense of trauma from COVID 19, 25% are afraid to go to the store, and 15% are scared to leave their own home, but only 23% have sought counseling. Some people also report needing to go back to work due to depleted savings but continue to fear for their lives as they return to work. They may want to continue self-quarantining but are unable due to the financial stress. The pandemic and the lockdown may cause post traumatic stress disorder or depression, but on top of that, reopening may cause further anxiety due to the unknown.
Our Psychiatric Wellbeing
Despite the toll on our psychiatric health3 that this pandemic has caused, there are some ways we can counteract its effects. It is best to limit the amount of media we expose ourselves to. A steady influx of bad news is not psychologically healthy. We can also learn to manage our response to the anxiety and fear. Exposure and response prevention is a technique to label the emotion, recognize them as signals, and break the cycle of the anxiety feeding itself so you can learn to tolerate the emotion better. As simple as it may sound, practice mindfulness as well. Be mindful of bad habits. Be mindful of drug and alcohol abuse. Be mindful of media exposure. Be mindful of your thoughts and feelings. In addition, distraction can be a good way to counteract the anxiety. Examples include social interaction through zoom, humor as smiling and laughing reduce stress, or watching a movie to help. Powerlessness is a detriment to our psychological health. To counteract this, you can get more involved. Because the pandemic is such a global issue, becoming more involved can minimize feelings of helplessness, whether it’s taking political action or meeting with groups of people to discuss the problem and ways to improve.
Lastly, ketamine infusions can be used to improve your psychiatric health. The pandemic will definitely cause post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and suicidal thoughts in certain people. It is reported that PTSD can be seen in 30-40% of direct victims, 10-20% of rescue workers, and 5-10% of the general population. A study from The Lancet4 found that economic crises and unemployment are correlated with a 20-30% increase in suicide risk. And, as we start to reopen the country, countless others will suffer from more anxiety and hopelessness due to the uncertainty of the future. In combination with your psychiatric team, ketamine infusions can be used to quickly improve your mental health. Studies have shown its rapid effect in reducing suicidal thoughts5, PTSD6, and depression7. They have shown immediate clinical improvement and effects lasting longer than the half-life of ketamine.
As the country starts to reopen, seek help if you find yourself developing stress, anxiety, or depression. The above ideas may mitigate the psychiatric effects of reopening but they do not supercede professional psychiatric advice. At StrIVeMD Wellness & Ketamine, we offer ketamine infusions while being closely monitored by a board-certified anesthesiologist.
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