The Impact of COVID-19 on Mental Health

Millions have been affected by COVID-19 since the first cases were reported this year. While evolving, detailed information relating to physical symptoms, spread, and preventive measures in the face of this pandemic has been increasingly available, less attention has been paid to the secondary effects of COVID-19. The socio-economic impact of this virus has been devastating, leaving so many women in sustained isolation, some having lost their jobs and feeling trapped with anxiety and fear—all while taking on increasingly active role as a care giver. The mental health and stress women are experiencing due to COVID-19 is extraordinary.

Here, we look at the impact COVID-19 has on women’s mental health, what signs or symptoms you need to be aware of, and how to find relief and get the help you may find that you need.

The Mental Health Impact of COVID-19

Overall Impact

The large-scale interruption of our daily lives continues to have negative ripple effects on emotional and mental stability for so many. In fact, a recent study shows that the stress and negative mental impact COVID-19 has had on US citizens actually surpasses that felt after the 9/11 tragedy or the Great Recession, and national surveys coordinated by Massachusetts General Hospital report that over 90% of U.S. adults surveyed say they are experiencing extreme frustration or worry directly resulting from the pandemic.

This toxic cocktail of stress, anxiety, and fear combined with social isolation is creating a global mental health crisis-within-a-crisis. Researchers and clinicians alike are feverishly trying to incorporate this very real emotional distress into wider pandemic response efforts. A result of this examination is that women seem to be experiencing a more significant emotional impact than men.

COVID’s Differing Emotional Impact on Women

As more research into the emotional and mental impact of COVID-19 becomes available, evidence is suggesting that the stress from the pandemic is being felt more acutely and having a greater impact on women than on men:

Compounding this already challenging emotional impact is that evolving evidence suggests women, especially those without a college degree, experienced more job loss than men during the pandemic. Many of these women were employed in hard hit service-sector positions (hospitality, food service, etc.), and with the simultaneous closure of schools and daycares, they are bearing the considerably inflated weight of additional burdens of home—all while isolation and social distancing recommendations removed help from friends or grandparents as a relief option. This also means that older women, who are more likely to live alone or in managed care are not only unable to help others in their family with newly soaring in-home childcare needs, but are also feeling an extended burden of extreme isolation and fear of infection.

Finally, for those women already in emotional distress and anxiety prior to the pandemic, such as those suffering from post-partum  or other depression, or those in unhealthy, abusive relationships, these new confines further exacerbate stress and underscore a feeling of being alone, trapped, and helpless in the face of their fear and anxiety.

It’s important, then, to know what signs and symptoms you should be aware of in yourself and others, so that you can start taking steps toward the relief and help that you deserve.

Signs and Symptoms

The first step in addressing a problem is an honest self-examination of how you are feeling. While we’ve all been feeling the drain of elongated isolation and a certain degree of hopelessness in the face of more bad news seemingly every day, if you experience extreme or ongoing symptoms of any of the following, then it is important you have an honest conversation with your doctor about getting the help you need:

These considerations are certainly not a comprehensive list, and if you are unsure and want a very simple, but impartial read on your current mental health, Mental Health America offers a fantastic mental health self-screening exam to help you better understand what your symptoms may mean, and how to get help.

If you feel even a small notion that something is “off”, then don’t risk it—talk to your doctor or a mental health professional to start your path toward feeling better today. Most healthcare professionals have transitioned to offering easy and safe access to care during the pandemic, many with virtual/telemedicine options for you to safely get the help you need.

Coping Strategies & Getting Help

Whether it started with an online screening, a long talk with a friend, or a detailed conversation with your doctor, the most important thing to realize is that you are not alone in this. While a specific plan for finding the help you may need will vary for each woman, there are a few things we can ALL do to improve our mental health during COVID-19:

Most importantly, you should not let COVID-19 force you to delay your health. Our Axia Women’s Health team is here to help. Contact your provider to start a dialogue about how you are feeling, and discuss resources that can help you.

For Axia patients in Pennsylvania, the Women’s Emotional Wellness Center is available as a comprehensive resource within the Women’s Specialty Center, a collaboration between Main Line Health and Axia Women’s Health. Click to learn more.

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