September 30, 2023

We are all affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. All of us experience fear of the virus, social isolation as we observe quarantine or lockdown restrictions, or sadness and grief as we deal with a loss. Psychological and psychiatric disturbances during the pandemic also arise due to biologic disturbances. Biologic or medical causes include the cytokine release and inflammation brought about by the SARS-CoV2.
Fear, anxiety, worry, depression, loss of sleep, and post-traumatic stress disorder, impaired concentration, mood alterations and other forms of mental health symptoms can occur among health workers and in the general population. We are all dealing with lots of questions and uncertainties, all to be tackled at the same time.
Anxiety is a common reaction to any form of stress like a strained relationship or a life-threatening situation. It is an unpleasant emotional condition usually associated with functional and behavioral changes. It can arise suddenly or slowly and can last for a few seconds to months or years. While anxiety may be a normal or physiologic reaction to a dangerous situation that threatens a person’s survival it can become prolonged and can overwhelm the person’s coping mechanisms. Anxiety disorder can then develop and interfere with a person’s daily life and his “usual normal” activities. Depression and dysfunction may eventually set in. The level of anxiety varies among individuals. It may not be discernible in most persons but can be uncovered by stressful conditions like a pandemic. The adjustments and balance that a person has established to cope up to sources of anxiety are overwhelmed by the changes and challenges of the pandemic.
Most persons slowly adjust and can recover with therapy, but intervention may be necessary. Psychotherapy is the treatment of a patient by a therapist using established psychologic techniques and making a systematic patient-and-therapist relationship. It consists of interviews or conversations between the therapist and the patient. Trust and confidentiality are paramount to its success and several sessions may be necessary. Professionals who can conduct this therapy include not only psychiatrists but also psychologists, social workers, nurses, and other professionals trained to perform psychotherapy.
Individual, family, or group therapy could be done. Psychotherapy is helpful even in persons who do not have psychiatric illness. It is a widely accepted therapy that helps people cope with problems brought about by an illness, loss of employment, loss of a loved one, disasters, or a pandemic. Psychotherapy can help evaluate and manage the following:
Conflicts and patterns that may be causing symptoms and difficulties in interpersonal relationships;
Distortions or disturbances in a person’s thinking or thought processes;
Effects of a personal loss or change in a personal relationship;
Psychotherapy is also used to help a person unlearn established or conditioned reactions to events around him and offer coping mechanisms.
A person’s insight or awareness that he or she has a mental health problem is very important in the success of the therapy. Psychotherapy helps resolve unexplained fear or anxiety and identify underlying or internal psychologic conflicts if any. It is used as sole therapy or with drugs prescribed by a psychiatrist. The stigma associated with psychotherapy or psychiatric consult has to be outgrown by any so-called normal society. Chills and fever develop when a person gets an infection. The organism causing the infection – whether a bacterium, a virus, or a fungus – sets the person’s body thermostat to a temperature higher than the normal level. The person’s body tries to generate heat to reach the higher temperature – he develops chills because the muscles as they contract generate heat. Once the desired temperature is reached, the person develops a fever. Chills and fever are thus normal or physiologic responses of the body to an infection but they are signs that the person has an infection. A doctor gives a medication for the temporary relief of the chills and fever but has to identify the cause of the infection and treat it with antimicrobials like antibacterial, antiviral, or antifungal agents in order that the chills and fever will not recur. Fear and anxiety, like chills and fever, could be physiologic responses of the mind to a stressful situation. They need to be addressed. Seeking professional help when needed is but a normal thing to do.

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