As people receive their COVID vaccinations, the United States is looking forward to a return to normalcy following the global pandemic. However, during months of social isolation, many individuals began exhibiting symptoms of depression. Simply returning to their pre-COVID routines may not be enough to shake the depression that has settled within them.
By now, we’ve all heard some of the advice for shaking off quarantine blues — take a walk, call up a friend, try a new hobby. Activities like these are good for anyone, but for someone who has developed depression, they are not enough, or could even seem daunting. Going outside? Voluntary social interaction? Buying new equipment and figuring out how to do something unfamiliar?
There are important distinctions between sadness and depression. If you believe you or a loved one may be suffering from depression, let’s look at how COVID may have contributed to the situation.
What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder and a common mental illness. Depression occurs when neurotransmitters do not function normally. That is, the brain chemicals responsible for feelings of happiness and pleasure do not fire the way they do in someone without depression.
Some signs of depression include feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, and helplessness; changes to sleep and eating patterns (too much or too little); and trouble concentrating. While many people feel like they’re thinking and behaving more slowly and sadly, some are on the other end of the spectrum and feel jittery, anxious, and irritable.
Sometimes people say that depression becomes a medical issue when these factors impede a person’s ability to work, care for themselves, pursue their interests, and form relationships. However, anyone struggling with motivation, low self-esteem, restlessness, and unhappiness can benefit from therapy with an experienced counselor.
How COVID affects depression
An important thing to remember about depression is that it is caused by both genetic and environmental factors. That means a person may develop depression for the first time in middle age or later in life. It also means that if two people are exposed to the same environment, one may develop depression and one may not.
COVID has upended the lives of many people. Some lost jobs or faced financial insecurity. Others faced previously unimagined stress at work. Nearly everyone lost social ties, abilities to participate in their hobbies, and opportunities to physically touch other people. While we were unable to leave the home to visit friends and extended family, we were cooped up with our immediate family, and many of us had to care for children who were becoming increasingly bored and frustrated themselves.
All of these sources of stress could lead to a person with a genetic predisposition for depression to develop symptoms.
Due to the unique stressors related to COVID, a person may have suffered clinical depression in the past year for the first time in their life. For someone who has never dealt with the feelings of hopelessness, the sleep disruptions, the thoughts of death, or the inexplicable aches that may accompany depression, this can be confusing and scary.
Other people may have experienced depression in the past but successfully managed their condition. Yet isolation and other effects of COVID may have brought on a new depressive period. This can be frustrating after working so hard to manage symptoms in the past and feeling like you have regressed.
Living with depression should not be viewed as a source of shame or embarrassment. It is a medical condition with demonstrated neurological factors.
One appealing option is to treat depression with medication, especially since depression may have been brought on in part by the extreme effects of the COVID pandemic. Medication can be appropriate and helps many people manage their symptoms.
However, therapy can also be an important tool to better understand your thoughts and motivations and provide you with skills to improve your mood.
Treating COVID-related depression with therapy
Depression may have snuck up on you because many of the signs mirror behaviors some of us have adopted during the pandemic. For example, people with depression often avoid social outings, which has certainly been the norm during the outbreak. People with depression may develop strange eating or sleeping patterns, which might also be the case for people working from home with more flexible schedules.
However, if you are finding it difficult to return to normal life as opportunities begin to present themselves, or if you find yourself unable to take pleasure in your hobbies or your relationships, those might be signs that you should seek help for depression.
Depression is sneaky because it saps people of the energy they need to seek help. Just picking up the phone to schedule an appointment can feel like a chore, let alone getting cleaned up, putting on some clothes, going outside, and talking to someone about your feelings.
That is why an experienced counselor can help. They offer non-judgmental assistance and can help you find solutions. They may recommend some of the above-mentioned strategies like going for a walk, but they can also help you examine your thoughts and understand why you are thinking and feeling the way you are.
COVID may have provided the last straw, but perhaps there are other mental or emotional barriers preventing you from living as happily as you might. With time, you and your therapist can discuss resentments you may be holding onto, aspects of your behavior you would like to change, and other fundamental issues that may or may not be related to COVID.
Call the MindSol Wellness Center for help treating COVID-related depression
Our staff is equipped to help you understand your depression and find healthy solutions. We can also help clients process past trauma and discuss any other factors that affect their mental health.
We do not require a diagnosis to initiate treatment. If you feel bad, we want to help, no labels required. Call our office today at (941) 256-3725 to schedule an appointment.