Mental health can suffer during quarantine period

Mental health can suffer during quarantine period

Health experts advise people to steer clear of fear-mongering and misinformation on social media

While home quarantine is necessary to reduce the spread of Covid-19, it can turn into an unpleasant experience for some. The uncertainty of the situation coupled with boredom, staying away from friends and family and loss of freedom can be overwhelming for many. This can have a drastic impact on one’s mental health too. So taking care of your mental health is as essential as making an effort to flatten the curve.

Metrolife asks experts why the isolation and lockdown can have a negative impact on people. 

For many, home quarantine comes as a bit of shock because the routine one follows goes for a toss all of a sudden, says Dr Vinod Kumar, psychiatrist and head, Mpower - The Centre.

“The psychological impact of this results in anxiety, frustration and boredom. People tend to develop acute stress disorder, though this also depends on the individual’s personality,” he adds. 

Sana Rubiyana, counseling psychologist, Fortis La femme hospital, Richmond Road, echoes his thoughts.

Observing that the majority of the population in Bengaluru currently consists of a working crowd, she points out that the lockdown has changed their routine, and consequently, the scenario they were familiar with. 

“We are habitual beings. A sudden change in the habit leads to a certain level of anxiety and depression — which are also two of the most common psychological conditions now,” she says.  

While a sense of helplessness creeping in when things are not in our control is common, what makes an unexpected quarantine worse? “When a situation is forced upon us, there is a possibility of a mental meltdown. It has a negative effect on one’s concentration and motivation and the ability to focus automatically decreases. The uncertainty of the length is also stressful for many. Similarly, the fear-mongering and misinformation on social media add to the stress,” explains Dr Kumar. 

Dr Sana highlights that the situation is worse for those individuals who already have a pre-existing history of psychological illnesses, psychiatric disorders or chronic medical conditions, and worst for those with substance abuse disorder. 

“Though healthy individuals also experience anxiety and depression, it is more drastic among the vulnerable group. Acute symptoms such as stress, anxiety and fear of illnesses (particularly Covid-19) can lead to disturbed sleep, lack of appetite or overeating, resulting in irritability and depression,” she says. 

Too much information is harmful

The news of the grim situation and the number of infected people or deaths can affect the mind of a person negatively.

“The excessive urge to seek constant information and updates can add fuel to the fire. For example, there are people getting panic attacks looking at the news channels projecting the increase in the curve. The advice is to be aware of, but not obsessed about, all the information as well as misinformation,” adds Dr Kumar. 

Every individual reacts differently to panic situations

Even if the situation is common to all, the reaction to it depends on an individual’s temperament and personality. 

“People with a more neurotic temperament tend to catastrophise a situation. They are prone to over-reacting, anxiety, depression, or dramatic interpretation of denial. Genetic make-up, environmental and cultural influences influence one’s behavioural pattern so while one person can take it in their stride, somebody else might completely disintegrate. This is known as extreme morbid personality,” Dr Kumar told Metrolife.  

Can music help?

“Listening to music is always therapeutic, especially when you are on your own. It helps one to relax. Yoga, meditation, reading, engaging in fun activities and following a structured routine of waking up or eating at the right time helps in a big way. This is essential for one to feel productive and worthy.

Red flags to watch out for

- Appetite imbalance, inability to concentrate on reading, or disruption in sleeping patterns, are tangible signs. If these persist for days on end, it is something to worry about. 

- Lowered tolerance level

- Anger outbursts 

- Persistent low mood

Tips to follow

Here is how to safeguard from stress, depression and anxiety

- Understand that quarantine will last for a finite period of time.

- Having a well-being plan for oneself is important.

- Stick to your pre-quarantine routine; this will help keep yourself grounded.

- Avoid drastic changes in routine. Maintaining a regular eating and sleeping pattern is important.

- Physical exercise is important — practice yoga or any floor mat exercises that can be done at home.

- Make time for leisure activities.

- Cooking can be therapeutic for many.

- Maintaining a stress journal or a gratitude journal. Those feeling extremely stressed and anxious can jot down their negative thoughts, wherein those who are feeling more positive
can maintain a gratitude journal.

- Maintain a to-do-list and work towards completing it. You can reward yourself after each task is completed.

Helplines

- Nimhans - 080 46110007 (toll-free)

- Fortis stress helpline 24/7 - 83768 04102