The Double Pandemic: Covid-19 and depression

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Covid-19 killed 211,000 people nationwide as of Oct. 7, 2020, as reported by The New York Times. Amidst the pandemic, rates of depression have tripled, according to a recent ABC’s Good Morning America.

Rise in depression rates

Psychotherapist and owner of Psy-che in Royal Oak, Michigan, Chelsea Peraino-Smoots confirms the spike in depression.

“The majority of my patients that (who) have been diagnosed with depressive disorders have experienced drastic exacerbations in symptoms, since the pandemic (anxiety disorders as well),” Peraino-Smoots said. “I have been seeing an increase in new patients that (who) are experiencing their first-ever onset of depressive/anxiety symptoms, due to COVID-19 and its negative impact on our mental health and wellness.” 

Psychotherapist and Owner of Psy-Che, Chelsea Peraino-Smoots in Royal Oak, Michigan, is seeing a significant rise in patients with depression. Credit Chelsea Peraino-Smoots

Peraino-Smoots said that since the second quarter of 2020, anxiety rates were approximately three times greater and symptoms of depression were approximately four times greater than the second quarter of 2019.

“The most common diagnosis we have seen is probably Adjustment Disorder, with mixed anxiety and depression,” said Peraino-Smoots. “People are finding it difficult to adjust to these unprecedented times, causing symptoms of anxiety/depression on a more frequent basis. Others might have already been in treatment for an anxiety disorder or some form of a depressive disorder, so those diagnoses have remained constant just with heightened symptoms and distress.” 

Depression studies show that having a strong social life helps to develop and gain skills to assist in our adult lives.

“Loneliness and emptiness, social anxiety, poor self-image, and fears of rejection/abandonment are common symptoms in depressive disorders/anxiety disorders,” Peraino-Smoots said.  “Without a social life, these symptoms are heightened, unable to be challenged or reframed.”

With all the new precautions being put into place, many who use social gatherings as coping mechanisms have been struggling.

“It has taken away activities that are of choice, those outside of our day to day responsibilities, such as household chores, attending to activities of daily living, work, childcare, etc.,”  Peraino-Smoots said. 

“Activities that are utilized as downtime, hobbies, self-care have all been stripped away, reducing pleasure, happiness, and fulfillment,” she said.

Lack of outlets to avoid depression

Royal Oak, known for its contemporary downtown shopping area and bars, draws people from outside Detroit to its popular festivals and the famous Woodward Dream cruise, said Xavier Hollis. He said the city has Royal Oak resident been the same. 

For Hollis, not being able to enjoy going to the movies and dining in at restaurants has stripped his solutions in dealing with depression.

Royal Oak resident, Xavier Hollis, spends most of his time at home because of the pandemic. Credit Xavier Hollis.

“Not being able to go outside and participate in my usual social routines made my days seem harder and longer,” Hollis said. “Often I would forget what day of the week it is. Life started to seem repetitive.”

With being shutdown for so many months, several businesses in Royal Oak have decided to shut down for good. Link to “as reported by Ch. 4 limiting the options for residents and visitors when it comes to reactivating their social life. 

Coping with the new normal

“Everything is so different now.” said student of David Pressley Esthetician School, Aja Alexander. “I got to the mall when I’m not feeling like myself. I go to the movies, I hang with my friends but now, that’s not really an option.”

Although places of entertainment are all just about back up and running, many are still very paranoid. 

Aja Alexander, a David Pressley Esthesian School student, after completing her skin routine. Credit: Aja Alexander.

“It’s like I want to go back outside and get back to enjoying the outside entertainment, but am I just supposed to forget about the virus that’s going on?” said Alexander.  “I’ve had to find new ways to cope with my depression and anxiety.”

Alexander has been trying different things during this pandemic to help cope with her depression and anxiety. From journaling, taking walks, exercising, binge watching her favorite shows on Netflix and perfecting her skin care routine. 

GMA provides ways to manage one’s mental health during the new normal.