Pre-Existing Mental Health Issues in Confinement

Depression, addiction problems, schizophrenia, anorexia... TMany people are facing confinement with a mental health issue or psychological disorder. Read on to learn more.
Pre-Existing Mental Health Issues in Confinement
Valeria Sabater

Written and verified by the psychologist Valeria Sabater.

Last update: 15 November, 2021

The effects of confinement on people with pre-existing mental health issues is a topic that may be being neglected. We’ve forgotten those who had already been suffering from a mental health or psychological disorder.

Some people may be suffering from addiction problems, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, or eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia. Also, we shouldn’t forget those who are looking after family members who suffer from these problems.

In this regard, organizations such as the University of Washington have warned that another effect of the current pandemic is the cases of depression caused by the current situation. However, many aren’t taking people with pre-existing mental health problems into account.

Psychologists warn of an increase in relapses. They stress the urgency of establishing follow-up and support networks and allowing professionals to travel to monitor the condition of these patients.

This is because, sometimes, a call isn’t enough, as professionals need to be physically present to notice crises, setbacks, or critical situations that can have serious consequences.

An anxious woman.

Pre-existing mental health issues in confinement

If mental health problems were already invisible before the pandemic, they now remain in an even more secluded and, above all, neglected arena.

Many people have lost their routines. The support groups and therapy sessions that were allowing many to progress are gone. Thus, some are returning to their addictions.

Others are on the verge of a depression relapse. Many remain unaware of how to react to a child who may no longer want to take the medications they need for their psychiatric condition. There are many varied cases, meaning that the effects of confinement are immense.

China has already taken this into account. In fact, very recently, The Lancet published a study in which doctors Hao Jao and Jian Chen delved deeper into this problem.

It’s been shown that people with mental problems are at a greater risk of contracting the coronavirus. Many have a weakened immune system. Others have a greater tendency to skip confinement and engage in behaviors that increase the risk of contagion. Mental health problems often lead to other diseases, and this increases their vulnerability to infection.

Another added factor is the fact that it’s becoming increasingly difficult for these patients to receive adequate psychological and medical care when they need it.

Below, we analyze other factors regarding pre-existing mental health issues in confinement.

A worried man.

Neglected realities

Confinement may be harder for people with pre-existing mental health problems, as many have a harder time asking for support and assistance.

For example, many of these people would love to be able to take a short walk every day. Although this is still impossible in many countries, thankfully, restrictions are starting to be lifted in others.

An added factor is the fact that a lot of people don’t have access to sunlight. The situation worsens if, on top of this, they’re suffering from a mental disorder or illness. However, there are other problems we need to bear in mind:

  • The current context is a trigger for those with phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorders, or intrusive thoughts.
  • Many, after years of therapy, have learned to manage distress and find strategies to cope with everyday worries and problems. However, the pandemic may overwhelm them and sometimes plunge them into a state of great helplessness.
  • Those who’ve suffered traumas can relive them in the present context.
  • Those who’ve resorted to self-harm or substance abuse can consider this situation a trigger to return to those behaviors.
  • Some patients have been admitted to mental hospitals in the past. The current confinement can make them relive those times and add to their distress.
  • These patients are unable to go to therapy sessions, support groups, and the routines that helped them so much.

What strategies should be followed?

Confinement in people with pre-existing mental health problems can be very problematic. Some patients face it alone. Others, along with their families, simply don’t know what to do. If this is your situation, here are some strategies you should take into account:

  • Follow the same routines and schedules. Do the basic activities that guarantee your well-being, such as resting, eating, exercising, and doing leisure activities, among others.
  • Make these routines with the professionals who’ve been treating you.
  • Remember that asking for help is valid and necessary. You deserve to be well and you can rely on others for support.
  • You must build a support network. Family, friends, neighbors, social services, associations, psychologists, and doctors must form a network that will be looking out for you.
  • Constant contact. Messages and calls are your daily source of support and help.
  • Always remember the coping strategies that have worked for you in the past, such as breathing exercises, reading, music, or art, among others.


To conclude, you must remember that you’re not alone. Also, if you know someone in this same situation, think about how you can help them.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.