Long Covid and its worrying impact on mental health
Updated: Jan 29
There have been a lot of articles published about the impact that Coronavirus has had on people’s mental health over the last year.
Most of what has been written up until now has focused on the effects caused by the restrictions and complications which have obviously made life very difficult for most people.
But it’s not just the isolation and loneliness that is causing mental health problems because there is now evidence that Covid 19 can cause lasting effects on the brain with as many as one in three patients experiencing neurological or psychological effects as they recover from the illness.
Those that develop so called long-Covid are particularly at risk of developing problems, but research is in its nascent stages and much more data needs to be collated before the mental health impact can be fully appreciated and understood.
But so many people are now reporting that in addition to the physical effects of persistent fatigue, they are also suffering from brain fog, confusion, dizziness, delirium and other cognitive difficulties.
I have been worrying about this recently after a conversation with a friend who was explaining how her whole family have been affected. They are still experiencing problems months after contracting the virus, and when she was describing the issues, I just kept thinking about how scarily the symptoms matched those of depression.
She explained that not only are they constantly exhausted but they haven’t got the mental strength or ability to concentrate long enough to read even a paragraph of text.
This is so unlike my friend to say anything like this because she’s got a ‘can do’ attitude and normally nothing stops her, so for her to say that they’ve struggled must mean it’s been really bad.
I have been so precautious throughout the pandemic, but I am now being ultra careful because I really do not need a Covid induced depression after everything I’ve already been through!
I’m relieved to have been prioritised for the vaccine because of my severe mental illness status which meant that I received my first dose back in February, but now that I know that neurological issues can be caused by Covid I'm still worried about getting it.
Fortunately, I’ve got my next dose at the beginning of May, so that is reassuring, but I know that not everyone is going to get the vaccine and I'm worried for those with current or underlying mental illnesses because they will suffer terribly if they get it.
I can’t even imagine what it would be like to get Covid when you’re already battling an episode of depression, it would just be an unimaginable hell that I really don’t think people would be able survive. The suffering that would be involved in that makes me wince just thinking about it.
Initial research undertaken in the USA has shown that out of a sample of 62,000 people who had Covid, 18% of them developed a mental health condition such as depression, anxiety or dementia within three months of their diagnosis.
I’m not even going to go too deeply into the findings of the U.K studies because it’s too frightening but mental illnesses post Covid have been reported across all age groups.
In severe cases where younger patients have been hospitalised, psychosis and catatonia have been reported which is frightening. Problems were also discovered in older adults who were found to have a two to three times greater risk of developing dementia.
These findings are terrifying me because the current mental health system is failing and stretched to capacity already so what the hell will it be like after the pandemic? I dread to even think about it.
There are several different theories as to the causes of these neurological changes caused by long Covid. One of these is demyelination which happens when the protective layer of nerve cells is attacked and weakened by the immune system which then causes inflammation in the brain. This can lead to all sorts of frightening problems including psychosis and hallucinations.
Another theory is that in extreme cases of Covid-19, the strain is so significant on the body’s respiratory system that there is a reduction of oxygen to the brain which can cause damage.
There are other theories too, but much more research is needed before the full effects of Long Covid can be fully understood. These early studies are important though, because they highlight the possibility of connections between this severe physical disease and mental illness.
It would seem that it is going to be far more complicated than just getting vaccinated and going back to normal life, and I for one will be being hypercautious until we know that it is proven to be safe to mix with others after having both vaccines.
I really cannot risk relapsing into depression ever again because I know I don’t have another one in me and I really don’t think I could endure or survive any more mental pain or suffering.
For those that are worried about symptoms developed from Covid like chronic fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, depression and stress, the advice is to seek specialist help available at clinics located across England and provided by the NHS. Further details can be found on the NHS Covid Recovery website: https://www.yourcovidrecovery.nhs.uk/
If you would like to know more about the symptoms of long Covid and how to manage them then you can find detailed information on the British Heart Foundation website which you can find here.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,