Estimates of the incidence of depression in the United States have always been variable, but have hovered around 9-11% prior to COVID-19. After previous national crises, such as 9/11, that rate has almost doubled, before receding again. Now, one year into this pandemic, a recent large-scale investigation has found that the incidence of depression has more than tripled in the US (Ettman, et al., 2020 https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.19686). At the same time, other studies have found that people with mental disorders have a higher risk of contracting COVID-19, while people who have had COVID-19 are at higher risk for developing mental health disorders within 3 months (Taquet, 2020, https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/article/PIIS2215-0366(20)30462-4/fulltext).
So what can we do about this ourselves? We know that this pandemic is stressful for everyone, disrupting school/work schedules, causing social isolation and anxiety about the future, and leaving a wake of tragedy for the families of patients who have died. I have suggested the following to my patients, as have many mental health practitioners:
4 Simple things you can do to take some measure of control
1) LIMIT watching the news! The best intervention I made with both my patients and myself was to STOP watching the news for a week or two. Anxiety went down exponentially!
2) TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF: everyone has heard of the “COVID-15”, and most of us have gained as much weight if not more. Now that it appears as though the world is not ending, it’s important to eat healthy—just in time for spring fruits and vegetables! Push yourself to get some exercise. Just going outside may improve your mood.
3) TURN OFF DEVICES: it’s time to improve your sleep routine. All my patients know that this is a hard one for me too. But I have been trying. Go to bed earlier, limit screen-time and remove extraneous noises that will wake you up. If your significant other (this includes dogs!) snores, get a sound machine.
4) AVOID ALCOHOL & DRUGS: things are hard enough out there without adding these to the mix right now.
For all my patients, you know what symptoms to bring to my attention. These include changes in sleep or appetite, loss of interest or pleasure in things, fatigue, trouble with memory and concentration, and increased feelings of sadness and emptiness.
Find out how we treat anxiety and depression at our offices in Westport and Milford Connecticut. Please feel free to contact us if you’d like to learn more about Psychiatric Associates of Southern Connecticut.
If you feel suicidal, please call 911. If you have been exposed to COVID please consult CDC guidelines.