Seven Psychological Consequences of the Coronavirus Crisis

28 May, 2020
In addition to taking extreme measures to protect yourself from COVID-19, it's essential that you take care of your mental health. In the midst of this crisis, you must be aware of the psychological effects of the coronavirus crisis and be ready for them.

Health institutions and government organizations are constantly informing us about measures to protect against the advance of COVID-19. However, one thing that isn’t talked about much is the psychological consequences of the coronavirus. Factors such as social isolation, home confinement, and uncertainty can certainly affect our mental health.

In addition, there’s another critical factor that we’re not taking into account. Thousands of people with depression or anxiety disorders consider this situation a factor that can further aggravate their condition.

Therefore, it’s essential to offer help and support strategies so that, during their time of isolation, they’ll feel supported and looked after.

It’s clear that we’ve never faced a situation like this before. However, this shouldn’t mean that we’ll fall apart. Quite the contrary, in fact. We must continue to be active in defending ourselves against both the coronavirus and its “side effects” (irrational behavior, unfounded fears, etc.).

You’re obliged to react and create bridges and bonds of help so that, within each family, in the silence of each house or room, your mind doesn’t betray you and doesn’t intensify the suffering.

Thus, we recommend that you get to know the psychological impact that this type of crisis can have.

A worried man.

Seven psychological consequences of the coronavirus that you should know

The scientific journal The Lancet recently published a study on the psychological consequences of the coronavirus. To conduct it, the experts took other similar situations into account (not with the same impact, of course). One of them was, for example, the quarantine that was carried out in several cities in Canada as an effect of the SARS outbreak in 2003.

The population was confined for 10 days and psychologists took the opportunity to analyze the effects of this type of situation. From this information, and the observations from our current situation, we can predict that the psychological consequences of the coronavirus may be the following:

1. Confinement for more than 10 days generates stress

One of the measures we’re taking to prevent the coronavirus and even to go through the disease itself (when the symptoms are mild) is to carry out a quarantine.

This current isolation period in many countries is for 15 days. Well, one thing that the researchers in this study, Doctors Samantha Brooks and Rebecca Webster of King’s College London, were able to see is that, after 10 days, our mental health starts to suffer.

From day 11, stress, nervousness, and anxiety arise. Thus, if a restriction of more than 15 days is imposed, the effects would be much more complex and difficult to manage for most people.

2. The fear of infection becomes irrational

One of the most obvious psychological consequences of coronavirus is the fear of infection. When an epidemic or pandemic situation drags on, the human mind tends to develop irrational fears.

It doesn’t matter that we have reliable information. It isn’t relevant that we’re warned about safety measures (hand washing, distance of more than three feet…). Gradually, we develop increasingly unfounded fears.

There may be an irrational fear that the infection may also come from the food we eat or that our pets may be transmitters. These are extreme situations we shouldn’t think of.

3. Boredom and frustration

It’s obvious. In a context where social interaction is reduced, where only silence reigns on the streets and we’re forced to confine ourselves to our homes, it’s evident that the demon of boredom won’t take long to arrive.

You know that there are many ways to fight it. However, as the days go by and the uncertainty grows, the sting of frustration already comes to the surface. Not being able to maintain your lifestyle and freedom of movement creates more complex and problematic emotions.

4. The lack of basic goods and panic buying

In the context of an epidemic or pandemic, the mind often acts on impulse. One such effect is panic buying.

Have you heard of Abraham Maslow’s classic pyramid of basic needs? At the base of it, the human being needs to be supplied with food and basic goods in order to feel good.

In a scenario of uncertainty, your brain focuses its attention on that priority: that you shouldn’t run out of those basic supplies.

It doesn’t matter that supermarkets don’t have supply problems. Neither does it matter that pharmacies aren’t running out of drugs. Your mind may try to make you believe that you’re going to run out of those things and that you must rush out and get them.

5. Mistrust: They’re not giving us all the information!

Another psychological consequence of the coronavirus is a mistrust of authorized sources: health institutions, politicians, scientists, and other experts. There comes a point in the middle of these crises and uncertainty when the human mind disconnects and distrusts.

This is something that was evidenced in the SARS crisis of 2003. The reason? Sometimes, the authorities gave contradictory information. Other times, there was no coordination between different members of government, health, and other jurisdictions.

We must bear in mind that this is an unusual event and we’ve never faced anything like this before.

We also have to consider that this adversary, COVID-19, is unknown, as was SARS in its day. The authorities respond on the basis of events and needs. Popular mistrust is the worst enemy in this context. Conspiracy theories start to increase and, far from helping, become a hindrance.

6. People with psychological disorders can get worse

We pointed this out at the beginning. The most vulnerable population, people with depression, phobias, generalized anxiety, and obsessive-compulsive disorders may suffer much more in this context. It’s vitally important that they feel supported and don’t spend these days in solitude.

A sad woman.

7. The worst enemy of all: negative thinking

There’s one obvious and highly dangerous factor in the psychological consequences of coronavirus: negative thinking. This is the type of thinking that always fears and expects the worst. The thinking that tells you that you’ll lose your job, that nothing will be the same, that you’ll end up infected, that someone you love will die, and that the economy will collapse.

Don’t get into this kind of thinking. Far from helping, it confuses your mind and brings out the worst in you. Thus, take care of your health, follow the preventive measures and, above all, take care of your psychological health.

In times of crisis, remain calm and create bonds. We’re all in this together – let’s help each other to successfully overcome this situation that will, in time, pass.

  • Brooks, S. K., Webster, R. K., Smith, L. E., Woodland, L., Wessely, S., Neil Greenberg, Fm., … James Rubin, G. (2020). The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: Rapid review of the evidence. The Lancet6736(20). https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30460-8