The outbreak of the new coronavirus has affected many areas of daily life, including mental health. With the sudden disruption of our routines and the new norm of social distancing, life as we knew it has dramatically transformed in a matter of weeks. Suddenly, many of us are facing the stress of the news—and its impact on our finances—alone, putting us at risk for depression during the coronavirus outbreak.
“This is the perfect storm for depression and anxiety,” says Dr. Robert Leahy, an attending psychologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, the author of The Worry Cure and Keeping Your Head After Losing Your Job, and a national expert in cognitive therapy.
With everything going on, people can find themselves ruminating, feeling hopeless and helpless, and, ultimately, depressed. The National Institute for Mental Health defines depression as a common but serious mood disorder that negatively affects how you feel, think, and handle daily activities such as sleeping, eating, and working. Symptoms include a persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood, irritability, and feelings of guilt and pessimism.
“We are facing a national trauma, whether it’s the fear of being infected or infecting someone else, or the economic downturn, and many people are isolated,” Dr. Leahy says.
Those who already struggle with depression and anxiety may find the situation exacerbates their feelings. Others who are used to keeping busy may suddenly find themselves alone with their thoughts more, and missing friends and family outside of their household.
While the need to maintain social distance creates some obstacles, there are specific steps you can take to “make the best of the worst,” according to Dr. Leahy. Here, he lays out ways to protect your mental health and prevent depression during the coronavirus outbreak.