Can COVID-19 Worsen Your Mental Health? Psychiatrists Uncover How Immunity Affects Mental Health
When the first wave of COVID-19 hit the globe, many people got infected but there was a small population of people that got much sicker than others. This discovery led many researchers to study how this was possible.
By the end of the first wave of COVID, psychiatrists uncovered that people with a high risk of contracting COVID and other infections were those who struggled with psychiatric disorders. An NYU neuropsychologist published a study where over 7000 COVID patients participated.
According to the study, people on the schizophrenia spectrum had more than twice the average person’s risk of dying from coronavirus. This was after controlling the other factors that affected the results such as heart diseases, smoking, obesity, and demographic factors.
The patients in the study were treated under the same medical system and got the same treatment. However, the risk was linked more with mental health than other factors.
Well, it’s not surprising. Many people with mental health and depression-related conditions often experience poor physical health and low immunity. Through these studies, one thing is clear though; that there is some biological and physiological vulnerability associated with mental health and viruses.
How Our Immune System Affects Our Mental Health?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the conditions that put people at a greater risk of contracting COVID-19 include mood disorders, depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
According to a psychiatrist at the University of Toronto, it’s little to no surprise that poor mental health indicates an infection risk. According to the researcher, the problem lies with poor immunity or inflammatory dysregulation. Poor immunity tends to co-occur with mental health issues and vice versa.
And when the immunity is low, it can cause people with infections such as COVID-19 to have worse results and health.
In medicine, there is hardly a singular explanation for anything. And it’s especially true when it comes to mental health issues and their increased risk for severe health issues and deadly infections. People with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, mood disorders, and major depressive disorder have more risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, have a low life span, and poor health in general.
When inflammatory dysregulation is temporary, it can help fight infection but when it’s chronic, it can cause serious health problems. When we talk about COVID-19, inflammatory dysregulation can cause an overreaction to the virus that can lead to the development of the worst symptoms, sometimes resulting in death even.
In people with severe depression, a small increase in inflammation can be seen. Same with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
The question remains; why do people develop inflammatory dysregulation?
Well, stress may be the reason. Chronic stress and lack of sleep can cause inflammation. However, the immune system also plays a role in the development of these disorders.
But, why would our immune system cause mood changes?
Let’s understand this with an example. When you have a cold, you might have symptoms that may be similar to depression. Now, you might not have depression but the symptoms might look like that.
You’ll feel exhausted, you won’t be able to get a good night’s sleep, and you might see changes in your appetite. You may also not enjoy doing things you used to or might find yourself feeling apathy.
This is the immune system talking! When your immune system is down, it can cause depression-like symptoms.
Similarly, this is possible with schizophrenia. A mother’s immune response to a viral infection while the fetus is still in the development stage can leave an impression on the baby’s cognitive growth and immune system.
Moreover, people with schizophrenia are at an increased risk of hosting chronic diseases as their immune response is much poorer. Inflammation can affect your metabolism and poor metabolism can eventually lead to worse conditions.
Of course, inflammation is just one minor factor when it comes to depression and other chronic or psychiatric conditions.
How COVID-19 Affects Our Mind?
Being diagnosed with a potentially deadly infection can trigger stress and anxiety. Given the COVID-19 virus, people who tested positive need to isolate themselves, which in turn, can lead to anxiety and depression.
Fighting the deadly coronavirus can be exhausting for people who are already diagnosed with moderate to severe symptoms. The treatment in itself can be traumatic and can involve a lot of uncertainty.
COVID-19 is not just a respiratory disease and it can affect our minds. In various studies, it was shown that COVID-19 patients were more likely to experience neurological difficulties, dizziness, delirium, and cognitive complications.
If the COVID virus affects the central nervous system, then this can cause psychiatric conditions. Additionally, this coronavirus can also disrupt your circadian rhythm that can cause poor sleep, insomnia, depression, low mood, anxiety, and a lot more.
Take Care Of Yourself, Always!
If you’re struggling with depression or other severe mental health issues, then you need to take care of yourself. Seek help from a professional mental health counselor. Maintain a healthy diet, keep a healthy bedtime routine, and stay as physically active as possible.
You can try to practice relaxation techniques, deep breathing, meditation, and other self-help techniques to stay as mentally fit as you can.
For people with mental health disorders such as schizophrenia, major depression, and other severe conditions, receiving professional care can help. It’s imperative to understand that there’s always a silver lining even in the middle of the pandemic.
I hope this article helped you understand mental health disorders and how they affect our immune system and mind.
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