Study suggests increased risk of mental health problems for COVID-19 patients

Posted at 6:19 PM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-10 18:19:31-05

TAMPA, Fla. — Researchers are looking at potential links between COVID-19 and psychiatric disorders. A recent study suggests people who’ve had COVID-19 may be at a higher risk of developing problems like anxiety and depression.

Researchers at the University of Oxford wrote in their study, “in this electronic health record network cohort study using data from 69 million individuals, 62,354 of whom had a diagnosis of COVID-19, we assessed whether a diagnosis of COVID-19 (compared with other health events) was associated with increased rates of subsequent psychiatric diagnoses and whether patients with a history of psychiatric illness are at a higher risk of being diagnosed with COVID-19.”

Results found in the three months after testing positive for COVID-19, almost one in five survivors were found to get a psychiatric diagnosis, like anxiety or depression.

"I think we’re going to need a lot more data over time here to see exactly does it actually affect the person directly or again is it more of that social component," said Dr. Ryan Wagoner, USF Health Associate Professor of Psychiatry. “When somebody is diagnosed with COVID, there are a number of new stressors that arise as well, and so the question is, is it those new stressors, or is it something from the virus directly?”

Dr. Wagoner explained when you get diagnosed with COVID-19, you’re often put into isolation. He says uncertainty and fear can come with an initial diagnosis, too.

“There seems to be almost this stigma sometimes where people kind of unwarrantedly put on themselves what did I do, why did I get this, did I do something wrong, is this my fault? And there’s some guilt there,” said Wagoner.

“We’re actually seeing a rise in individuals who number one have contracted COVID-19 and are experiencing depression or sleep disruption and anxiety,” said Dr. LaDonna Butler, a licensed mental health counselor and CEO of the Well for Life. “We also have seen individuals who have family members who’ve contracted the disease also having very similar outcomes."

Dr. Butler explained it’ll take some time to really understand the long-term impacts of COVID-19. Doctors suggest trying to keep a normal schedule and routine, staying busy, and staying virtually connected to friends and family.

They say if symptoms of anxiety or depression get worse, be sure to reach out for the help you need.

“Give yourself time,” said Dr. Bulter. “Allow yourself the experience of feelings that you have, talk about it with someone that you trust, talk about it with someone that you love and then seek help.”