It is easy to say that 2020 was one of the most difficult years for many individuals worldwide. The COVID-19 pandemic took 4.4 million lives worldwide, rattled economies, causes 114 million people to lose their jobs, and pushed many people to their breaking point resulting in severe mental health disorders, addiction, and suicide.
2021 has been slightly better with businesses opening back up, the economy starting to come back to life, and vaccinations slowing down the death rate, but we are still knee-deep in this pandemic. Families have been torn apart due to death, mental illness, addiction, and financial hardships. Although the disease progression is slowing down, the ripple effects from this ongoing pandemic could last longer than COVID-19 itself.
According to a health tracking poll from Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly four in 10 Americans say that worry and stress related to the threat of COVID-19 have played a negative role in their mental health.
Pandemic fatigue and anger
We are a little over a year into the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, many individuals are becoming tired of the “new normal” routines such as wearing masks, social distancing, not traveling, virtual gatherings, etc. As a result, many individuals are experiencing a type of burnout that experts are calling “COVID-19 fatigue,” which has led to many careless behaviors, resulting in a sharp rise in cases in recent months.
For many individuals who have not seen their families and friends in person for months or skipped traveling to stay safe during the pandemic, it’s easy to get angry when other individuals don’t seem to do “their part” to limit the spread of COVID-19. To describe this feeling of “pandemic anger,” people have coined the term “pangry.” “Pangry” has led many people to lash out at strangers, individuals on social media and even sever their relationships with their friends, loved ones, and family members.
In addition, the politics surrounding COVID-19, vaccination suggestions, and mask requirements have caused a rift among many people resulting in extreme hostility. This anger and hostility has led to verbal and physical attacks and most likely has contributed to depression, anxiety, and substance abuse among many individuals.
Taking a look at the statistics
Since this pandemic is in its second year, long-term studies regarding mental health, addiction, and COVID-19 have yet to be completed, but recent statistics show that there has been an increase in mental health disorders and substance use disorders since the inception of COVID. In addition, job loss, loss of income, and school closures have been leading factors in developing mental health and substance abuse disorders, particularly among populations of color.
- Non-Hispanic Black adults (48%) and Hispanic or Latino adults (46%) are more likely to report symptoms of anxiety or depression compared to Non-Hispanic White adults (41%).
- During this pandemic, approximately 4 in 10 adults in the United States have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, an increase from one in ten adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019.
- A KFF Health Tracking Poll from July 2020 found that many adults are reporting negative impacts on their well-being, such as difficulty sleeping (36%) or eating (32%), increases in alcohol consumption or substance use (12%), and worsening chronic conditions (12%), due to worry and stress over COVID-19.
- During the pandemic, adults in households with job loss or lower incomes report higher rates of symptoms of mental illness than those without job or income loss (53% vs. 32%).
- Essential workers are more likely to report symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder (42% vs. 30%), starting or increasing substance use (25% vs. 11%), and suicidal thoughts (22% vs. 8%) during the pandemic compared to non-essential workers.
- Mothers are more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder than fathers (49% vs. 40%). In general, both prior to and during the pandemic, women have reported higher rates of anxiety and depression compared to men.
Seeking treatment for mental health during the ongoing pandemic
At the beginning of COVID-19, mental health and substance use disorder treatment centers were forced to close down because of the stay-at-home orders. As a result, 12-step and other community meetings were canceled, and people had to turn to virtual support and treatment. Not being able to seek in-person treatment most likely hindered many people’s recovery. Combined with loneliness and financial hardships, it is most likely that relapse rates skyrocketed for a short period of time as many people turned to alcohol and drugs to cope with the isolation and stress from COVID-19.
Luckily, as vaccinations became available and when the stay-at-home orders were lifted, treatment centers started to re-open, and 12-step community meetings were back in action. Although many of us are still struggling with financial repercussions and stress related to this ongoing pandemic, we can now seek professional treatment in person. Most mental health and substance abuse treatment centers now offer virtual outpatient treatment and in-person treatment due to COVID-19.
Treatment centers had to pivot during the pandemic into a virtual setting. Many of these treatment centers have chosen to keep virtual outpatient care as a treatment option for those who are not comfortable leaving their homes. If you find yourself struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health disorders or turning to drugs or alcohol to soothe your anxiety, it may be wise to seek professional treatment as this pandemic is most likely not going away anytime soon.
The sooner you reach out to a treatment professional, the sooner you can adopt healthy coping skills to help manage your stress levels and mental health during this ongoing pandemic.