Covid-19: Adapting to Change
March 23, 2020
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Quarantine & Mental Health: Anticipate, Plan and Deter

It is becoming clear that the recent changes in the world around us are posing a real challenge in learning how to adapt.

Not only are we having to think about keeping ourselves physically safe, we are also realising there is a threat to our psychological wellbeing. Here is what the research tells us about the likely consequences of prolonged quarantine:

  • In some studies up to a third of people were showing signs of poor mental health. There was a high incidence of anxiety and 60% of people showed increased irritability (Hussain, Sultana, & Purohit, 2020).
  • We know that healthcare staff working under conditions of quarantine experienced even higher levels of mental health difficulties. These were related to increased stress and exhaustion, anxiety, depression and insomnia. As we have also seen, healthcare staff can be stigmatised due their close proximity to the infection.

The research has revealed that people are likely to experience symptoms of an acute stress disorder (Brooks et al, 2020):

  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Poor concentration
  • Indecisiveness
  • Poor motivation
  • Fear
  • Nervousness
  • Sadness
  • Anger

There are good biological reasons for this.

Firstly, we are all facing potential imminent danger which activates an area of the brain called the amygdala. This part of the brain allows us to sense danger and effectively respond to it. Adrenaline is produced to encourage our bodies into action, this is the ‘fight, flight or freeze response’. The issue we are facing now is that we are in quarantine when our bodies are going into overdrive telling us to respond to the danger and do something. Secondly, an important part of soothing ourselves and allowing us to counter this response is social interaction and connection. The combination of these two things is a real threat to our psychological wellbeing.
So, taken from China’s first aid response – Anticipate, Plan, Deter. Expect these problems, it is not a reflection on your coping ability but a inevitable biological response. Plan for how you might overcome these challenges, build up your toolkit of strategies and STAY WELL!


Keep following the Insight Psychology Facebook page as I deliver more

advice on building up your skills to cope with these issues.


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