Cognitive and psychological distress in Covid patients affecting recovery: Experts
New delhi: Covid-19 patients continue to suffer from the after-effects of the disease well into the recovery process, especially those with comorbidities, but medical research has shown that many patients also experience cognitive and psychological distress.
"Covid-19 comes with a lot of stigma and uncertainty attached to it. We have been hearing a lot of nightmarish narratives from patients and their families about how they have been ostracised. It also depends how each individual responds to stress. That itself can predispose one to many other kinds of breakdowns. We also know of people committing suicide out of panic. So, that is the level of psychological impact we're talking about," said Dr Preeti Singh, Senior Consultant, Clinical Psychology and Psychotherapy at Paras Hospital.
In fact, both research and medical experts say that stress, anxiety, and a general sense of isolation or loneliness ail not only individuals suffering or recovering from covid, but a large section of the general population as well.
Dr Singh said that confusion about their symptoms also lends a general sense of anxiety and hopelessness. "Let's say an asthma patient contracts COVID. Earlier if they would experience breathlessness, they would chalk it up to asthma and they would deal with it appropriately. Whereas now, they get confused whether it is a COVID symptom or not, will it be life-threatening… there's a lot of half-baked information on social media also... And that creates a sense of panic. They're never really sure if they have recovered."
Another traumatic factor is the deep sense of isolation that many patients, whether in hospitals or self-isolation at home, feel. Patients also experience insomnia (or sleeplessness), loss of focus, depression and hopelessness.
"Even doctors who contract COVID and are isolating themselves at home will get calls asking for consultations over the phone. That will, of course, create an underlying sense of anger once they return to work," Dr Singh said because no one acknowledges that they have just experienced a life-threatening disease.
Dr Roma Kumar, Senior Consultant and Psychologist at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital adds that families who have lost someone to COVID also have a "sense of endless bereavement or grief. They could have lost someone suddenly and didn't have the chance to see them one last time. There are cases when 2 or more people in the family have died of the virus. It's too sudden and too much to take in all at once", she said.
Dr Kumar also said that she has noticed a rise in volatile, violent, aggressive, and sadistic behaviour, especially in abusive households or marriages, and victims are trapped. "Pandemics are known to be long and stressful. We've seen a rise in the consumption of alcohol, drugs and pornography. People feel as if these are the only outlets left to them. There's also a higher risk of suicide".