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Post Covid mental illnesses on rise: How to spot symptoms; treatment options


Are you struggling with anxiety, depression, personality changes and other such mental health issues post Covid? You are not alone. There are a number of people who are reporting psychiatric disorders post their recovery and mental health experts are advising people to work on healthy lifestyle as well as treatment including psychotherapy and medications. Recently a study at the Oregon State University (OSU) in the US found that Covid-19 patients had about 25 percent increased risk of developing a psychiatric disorder in the four months following their infection, compared with people who had other types of respiratory tract infections. The finding was published in the journal World Psychiatry. (Also read: These post Covid illnesses can kill; doctors on how to avoid them)

Experts are of the opinion that pandemic has impacted mental health of not just people who were infected by Covid but also people who haven’t. More number of complaints related to mental health have been noticed post covid in females or patients admitted in the intensive care units.

“Post covid there have been many psychiatric disorders which have manifested in people who have experienced either the infection as well as people who haven’t,” says Dr Shambhavi Jaiman, Consultant Psychiatrist, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare Ltd.

The most common psychiatric disorders which were seen are anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, post traumatic disorder and grief related symptoms.

“The statistical range seen for these disorders has been around 6.5- 63% for anxiety disorder, 4- 31% for depressive disorder and 12.1- 49.6% for post traumatic stress disorder. An overall decline in quality of life was seen upto 3 months post covid infection,” says Dr Jaiman, adding there has also been rise in the intrafamilial violence or the violence occuring within a family.

Post Covid mental illnesses: How long do these symptoms continue?

Dr Jaiman says there isn’t any exact duration for which these symptoms last for and can vary from person to person and from one disorder to the other.

“The duration of these symptoms or disorders would also depend on what kind of intervention or changes have been made to tackle the symptoms or disorders. But on an average would say that even with intervention they would need sometime between a few weeks to months for the symptoms to subside or resolve,” says Dr Jaiman.

How to spot these symptoms?

When we talk about psychiatric disorders some common things which we need to keep in mind are:

– Significant changes in the behaviour of the person like crying more frequently, increased irritability, increased emotional sensitivity etc

– Changes in their sleep – increase or decrease in the duration of sleep or change in the quality of sleep or change in eating habits.

– Another important factor is socio-occupational dysfunction e.g. decreasing interaction with family/peers; changes in the level of professional/ academic performance.

– A combination of the above if seen should warrant a psychological assessment by a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

What are the treatment options?

Lifestyle management: Adequate exercise, proper sleep and balanced nutrition.

– The treatment can a combination of psychotherapy and medications like anti-anxiety or antidepressants or either of the two depending on the symptom profile and the severity of the symptoms.

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