The COVID-19 virus welcomed the year 2020 bearing dreadful news. It has been more than a year since the whole world has started battling the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the course of 15 months, the COVID-19 virus has managed to infect over 127 million people. There was a steady rise of infected cases in 2020 and then came a surge in mid-January 2021 because of the new variants of the COVID-19 virus. After that, the number gradually dwindled down but rose once again in the month of March.
The entire world has experienced a series of quarantines and lockdowns amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. After witnessing more an outbreak of a pandemic disease, what does science have to say about the psychological effects brought by the COVID-19 pandemic? This cause and effect essay will present the psychological effects caused by the worldwide pandemic and the stressors that caused it.
Psychological Effects Brought by the COVID-19 Pandemic
People who have been infected with COVID-19 are required to be isolated, preferably in a healthcare institution where healthcare professionals can give them the aid they need, within a specific duration – which typically lasts 14 days – so that they can be observed and that they can recover from the disease. During these two weeks, a person infected with COVID-19 should only come in contact with nurses and doctors that are coming to check on him.
Apart from people who tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, those they have come in contact with, for instance, their family, friends, and co-workers should also undergo quarantine too in order for them to observe if they are to develop COVID-19 symptoms. During this time, those who came in contact with the COVID-19 positive individual should also get tested to make sure that they are not infectious as well.
The isolation for at least two weeks does a lot for a person’s psychological well-being. But the pandemic is obviously bigger than just a mere 14-day quarantine as it affects all of humanity – whether one is infected or not. The pandemic created not just a physical and health-related crisis, but also affected one’s mental and emotional state – that may carry on years after the pandemic is controlled. With that, here are some of the psychological effects brought by the pandemic that has been found in studies:
Anxiety is a natural response that develops when a person is faced with a situation where he feels trapped and helpless. During the pandemic, the number of people developing and experiencing anxiety shot up because people are anxious of having another family member or loved one infected by the virus or not having enough money to sustain themselves and their family. Anxiety about being stigmatized after being infected is another source of anxiety for individuals directly suffering because of the virus.
Frustration is mostly driven by the fact that even scientists are having a hard time in pinpointing an effective strategy to stop the spread of the contagious virus. People are running out of resources, millions of people have lost a loved one, infected people are being isolated from their family, workers are losing jobs, and business are closing. People may get frustrated about their current situation along with the situation the whole world is in. Especially if the people in authority they put their trust in is not showing significant progress on how the COVID-19 pandemic is being handled.
Two weeks of being alone in quarantine with nothing much to do can feel like a terribly long time. People who are and have been under quarantine reported that they have felt loneliness during the time when they were isolated and kept under observation in a medical facility. A person under quarantine is bound to feel lonely as everyone craves for human interaction especially when they are struggling. Apart from people in quarantine, individuals who have lost family members to the virus are also prone to feeling loneliness during this time.
Almost everyone is concerned with their employment status and financial capability. With big enterprises struggling to keep their company afloat amidst the pandemic is enough to make a person feel distressed about their own financial capability. Connected with that is the amount of financial resources they have left to sustain their family and pay for accumulating hospital bills. As companies are cutting down costs, laying off employees is a dreaded expectation and some are even losing their start-up businesses due to the pandemic which worsens their financial situation.
According to studies, men are mainly the ones feeling boredom bin this pandemic especially when they are quarantined. Outgoing people feel this the most as they are not used to staying at home all day long for a minimum of 14 days. At first, a supply of video games, books, and shows to watch can keep a person entertained enough. However, things like that is not enough to keep the boredom away as what most individuals are looking for is actual in-person interaction with their friends.
As opposed to men getting bored under quarantine, women are more vulnerable to developing post-traumatic stress disorders. This is because women are mainly concerned by their overall health and that of their loved ones. Furthermore, the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic is a traumatic event for COVID-19 patients and healthcare providers to go through. A person that has been placed under quarantine felt that even more and contributed to the negative psychological effect they experience.
Inability to Relax
The pandemic simply would not allow individuals to fully relax as everyone is under constant stress and anxiety because they are being plagued with thoughts of being unable to recover, of having infected other people, their financial status, that they could no longer provide proper medical care needed to patients, and the feeling that the COVID-19 pandemic has no end in sight.
Lack of Concentration
This psychological effect is more noticeable after a person is released from quarantine. During the two weeks of being almost unproductive or barely doing anything, a person’s ability to focus and concentrate significantly lessens. It is no wonder that a person who has been kept in isolation has decreased levels of concentration. The individual may also be constantly looking for things to busy himself with even after he got home. This psychological effect may affect his academic or work performance.
Feelings of Helplessness
A person under quarantine because he is positive or is suspected of being infected with COVID-19 may induce feelings of helplessness. This is because that person feels like he could do next to nothing to improve his situation and that he can only rely on healthcare professionals. Aside from that, feelings of helplessness may come from the individual’s worry about the possibility that he may be infected or has become a carrier of the virus and unknowingly infected a loved one and that he is virtually unable to do nothing as nobody has any idea how to effectively stop the virus.
Being isolated from people for 14 days may make an individual may give rise to feeling detached from other people. This event may also be caused by the trauma of being infected with COVID-19 or knowing someone who has been infected with COVID-19. Other than these factors, the stigma brought by being infected with COVID-19 can also cause a person from drifting away from other people. People infected with COVID-19 are often judged by society thus causing a detachment from other people to form.
Deteriorating Work Performance
Idleness during the quarantine duration may reduce one’s productivity. People who have lost their jobs in the middle of the pandemic or have been in quarantine are expected to jump right back to their jobs or school works but what others fail to understand is that they need to be given time to readjust to the environment and reorient themselves. Their mental state as well as their work performance has been affected by the pandemic. Thus, an undeniable decline in one’s once excellent work performance can be noticed.
The onset of these symptoms are found to be present in those who have experienced being under quarantine than in healthcare workers. These people tend to be more compelled to have spotlessly clean surroundings, are having difficulty dealing with the uncertainty of their situation, and are having thoughts about harming themselves. Because they have been through the trauma of being infected with the virus, developing obsessive-compulsive symptoms may be a defense mechanism that makes them feel safer from being infected again.
This psychological effect is mainly experienced by healthcare workers as they barely have enough time to rest since the COVID-19 pandemic has started. Every day, the number of infected people continues to rise which causes the amount of time they have for themselves to gradually decrease and vanish altogether. This is mainly due to emotional and mental exhaustion and also leads to healthcare professionals wishing that they themselves would get infected with the virus so that they will be able to get some rest.
The psychological effects caused by the pandemic stated above is brought about by a number of different reasons. It affects the COVID-19 infected individuals, those who came in contact with them, and healthcare workers. Listed below are some of the stressors that brought about the negative psychological effects these individuals face due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Studies show that the longer the duration of the quarantine, the more the psychological effects of being in quarantine increases. Experts recommend that the quarantine time be shortened as much as possible. However, there is a struggle in doing this as there is a recommended quarantine duration of 14 days. With that, extended durations of quarantine is to be avoided to reduce the risk of worsening the psychological effects.
Insufficient Supplies and Healthcare
Having insufficient supplies to sustain you throughout the duration of the quarantine also leads to negative psychological effects. A person needs basic necessities like water, proper ventilation, food, a change of clothes, face masks, medicines, and other medical equipment that is needed for them to recover as soon as possible. And even if a person is not under quarantine, it is necessary for them to have adequate supplies. There are also instances in some locations where there are not enough testing centers, quarantine facilities, and healthcare providers. These are also contributing factors as to why people are developing psychological effects.
There are endless sources of information about COVID-19. However, as not everyone has access to the internet or social media, some rely on the government or news media outlets to learn more about the virus. Poor coordination between the medical authorities and those who are designated to share the information along with a confusing cascade of information makes up the inadequate information cascade. And because of the inadequacy, a person may be misinformed or ignorant about what COVID-19 is, how it can be transmitted, and how to protect oneself.
Social isolation is the root cause of many of the behavioral changes that may be observed after a person has been quarantined. This is unavoidable as this is one of the strategies that is used to prevent the spread of the virus. Being isolated from loved ones may cause a person’s emotional and mental well-being to deteriorate.
With no end in sight, the COVID-19 pandemic heightened the future’s uncertainty. There may be vaccines available, but its long term effectivity still cannot be ensured by those who manufactured it due to lack of data. The infection rate still cannot be controlled in some locations even if there are preventive measures in place - it seems like no one is safe from the virus. Furthermore, the recovery of COVID-19 patients is still unpredictable as some treatment methods are not effective on some of the infected.
Loss of Control
Apart from all of those, losing control of pre-prepared plans can really throw off a person’s peace of mind. These may be plans to travel, get married, finding a new job opportunity, or moving out. Currently, it is near impossible for a struggling individual or household to make plans that is scheduled for a year later especially if it requires a healthier environment. People are losing control over their lives due to the pandemic is contributing a lot of stress.
The COVID-19 pandemic does not only affect a person’s physical health as it definitely affects their mental stability as well. There are a number of solutions for this like ensuring that information is constantly being provided clearly, that communication with loved ones is maintained, there is a source of entertainment like books to read and movies to watch, ensuring that one’s basic needs are met, and avoiding extended quarantine periods.
The internet is another way to help in reducing the isolation effects as it is a way to connect the isolated person to loved ones and ensure that he is up-to-date with information regarding COVID-19. Although, its used may also be monitored as it has negative effects such as being vulnerable to misinformation and addiction to online games or social media.
Overall, this cause and effect essay recognizes that the psychological effects caused by the pandemic has a wide range and may last for an extended period of time. The results of studies do not suggest in any way that quarantine protocols should be lifted as it has proved effective against restricting the spread of the virus. Be that as it may, it is still better to provide the best situation possible for those who should be quarantined.
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Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress, Department of Psychiatry, & Uniformed Services University. (2020, February). Psychological Effects of Quarantine During the Coronavirus Outbreak: What Healthcare Providers Need to Know. https://www.cstsonline.org/assets/media/documents/CSTS_FS_Psychological_Effects_Quarantine_During_Coronavirus_Outbreak_Providers.pdf
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