How to Manage Depression Symptoms During the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the number of people in Pennsylvania and nationwide who are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety. People have lost loved ones, become ill, and been forced to stay home and disconnect from their social ties, while millions of people have lost their jobs and face financial pressures.
As the coronavirus pandemic had dragged on month after month, pandemic fatigue also has become a factor. The exhaustion that comes from months of living on heightened alert amidst heightened anxiety has taken its toll on people worldwide.
It comes as little surprise, then, that there has been a significant surge in the number of Americans in need of mental health services over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, mental health and behavioral health providers are working diligently to reach those in need of support. Our team at New Vitae Wellness and Recovery is proud to be among the providers dedicated to helping our residents and our communities manage and treat the symptoms of these conditions and practice resilience in the face of adversity.
Rates of Depression During the Pandemic
Since the pandemic began in early 2020, many of us have encountered friends, loved ones, colleagues and others who have been affected deeply by the challenges it brought. In fact, the rates of depression and anxiety in June 2020 were three to four times higher than during the same period in 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rates of suicidal thinking, substance abuse and alcohol consumption also have steadily increased.
Overall, 40.9 percent of respondents in a nationwide survey of adults 18 and over reported at least one adverse mental or behavioral health condition such as anxiety, depression or trauma-and-stressor-related disorder (TSRD) related to the pandemic. Additionally, about 13.3 percent of respondents reported that they had started or increased substance use to cope with stress or emotions related to COVID-19. And 1 out of 10 people said they had seriously considered suicide in the 30 days before completing the survey, the CDC reported. Most of those were between the ages of 18 and 24.
Given how widespread the challenges have been, New Vitae Wellness and Recovery experts recommend being able to clearly identify the telltale signs of anxiety and depression.
Common Signs of Depression
Keep on the lookout for the following symptoms of depression.
- Feelings of fear, anger, sadness, worry, numbness or frustration
- Changes in appetite, energy and activity levels
- Having less energy or feeling more fatigued than usual
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping or nightmares
- Physical reactions, such as headaches, body pains, stomach problems and skin rashes
- Worsening of existing chronic health problems
- Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs
While it’s not uncommon to experience some of these symptoms from time to time, mental health experts agree that if you experience these or similar feelings for several consecutive days and feel unable to perform routine activities, you should contact a medical professional to discuss the best course of care.
7 Ways to Manage Depression During COVID
While the COVID-19 pandemic clearly has affected the mental wellness of people of all ages nationwide, fortunately, there is help available; you don’t have to fight alone. Experts know there are many ways to manage depression and anxiety during these highly stressful and unprecedented times. Here are six suggestions:
- Stay connected. Use the phone, online virtual meetings or socially distanced small gatherings (with masks and, preferably, outdoors) to keep in touch with friends, family, and your mental healthcare providers.
- Create structure. Stay busy and find some purpose every day. Keep as much of a normal schedule as you can, including sleep and meal routines.
- Eat healthy. When you’re stressed, it’s easy to indulge some bad eating habits. Still, as much as possible, try to avoid too much snacking and eat regular, well-balanced meals.
- Move more. Exercise is beneficial in many ways, both to your mental and physical health.
- Practice coping skills. Maybe you enjoy listening to music, painting or photography. If you have a pet, make sure you’re spending time with it. Engage those interests now, as you work to control your stress, anxiety and depression.
- Manage media. Stay informed, but take a break from the news, including on social media. Too much challenging news can make anyone feel depressed and anxious.
- Seek treatment. Medical treatments are available to treat depression, including Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, or DTMS, a new path to recovery from symptoms of depression.
DTMS Can Help
With the incidence of depressive and anxiety symptoms in the United States paralleling the trajectory of COVID-19, it’s important to know there are a wide range of resources and treatments available. One is New Vitae Wellness and Recovery’s groundbreaking treatment regimen, Deep Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (DTMS). Designed for people who have not found relief from depressive symptoms despite consistent use of antidepressants, DTMS is an adjunct to traditional antidepressants.
New Vitae Wellness and Recovery is one of the first in the region to offer this cutting-edge treatment, which uses electromagnetic fields to stimulate the inner workings of the brain. The non-invasive process is applied for about 20 minutes a day over a period of four to five weeks. Safe and well-tolerated, DTMS uses coils that are placed around the patient’s head to target regions of the brain and to trigger desired responses from brain cells. Users sit in a comfortable chair and even can read while undergoing treatment.
Featured on PBS Channel 39’s “Close to Home: Depression,” New Vitae’s DTMS is covered by many insurance companies. To learn more and schedule an appointment, visit www.newvitaewellness.com/recovery-supports-services/services-dtms
Call your healthcare provider if your depression or anxiety worsens. Telehealth is available to provide care without personal contact, if preferred.
Special Care for Young People
Children, teens, and young adults also are suffering during the pandemic and its many consequences. Younger people process stress from trauma differently than adults, and the COVID-19 pandemic has been, and continues to be, a very challenging time for young people and their loved ones.
But there are many resources available to help families navigate through this crisis. Here are several ways to help young people, in particular:
- Recognize and address their fears and stress.
- Be aware of changes in behavior, including sleep and eating habits. Seek professional help, if needed.
- Take time to find a comfortable place to sit with your child where you’re at the same level, perhaps on the floor, and discuss their fears in a safe place. Be sure to listen.
- Maintain routines and schedules, as much as possible.
- Give honest, accurate, age-appropriate information about what’s happening.
- Help children stay socially connected while following public health protocols.
For more information and resources, visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/parental-resource-kit/early-childhood.html
Other resources include:
SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) National Hotline: 1-800-662 –HELP (4357) and TTY 1-800-487-4889
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for English, 1-800-628-9454 for Spanish or Lifeline Crisis Chat
If you are in crisis, call 911.