COVID has caused many to experience cognitive difficulties, anxiety and depression among other mental health issues.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently issued an advisory highlighting the mental health symptoms of long COVID. This advisory, developed in collaboration with leading experts in the field, aims to raise awareness about the psychological impact of long COVID and provide guidance for healthcare professionals and individuals affected by the condition.
Long COVID refers to a range of symptoms that develop and/or persist after the acute phase of a COVID-19 infection. While much attention has been focused on the physical symptoms of long COVID, such as fatigue, shortness of breath, and brain fog, there is growing recognition of the mental health effects that can accompany the condition.
HHS states that 10% of people who have contracted COVID-19 previously have at least one symptom of the long COVID. Battling such symptoms can have a negative impact on a person’s mental health. It can be complicated for a person, whether they have afflicted themselves or are a caretaker for someone who is affected.
The advisory identifies several mental health symptoms reported in individuals with long COVID. These include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and cognitive difficulties. Individuals with long COVID may experience heightened blood pressure levels due to ongoing health concerns and uncertainties about the future. Depression, characterized by persistent sadness and loss of interest, can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. PTSD may arise from the traumatic experience of severe illness and hospitalization during the acute phase of COVID-19. Cognitive difficulties, often called “brain fog,” can manifest as problems with memory, concentration, and decision-making.
The HHS advisory emphasizes recognizing and addressing these mental health symptoms in individuals with long COVID. Healthcare professionals are urged to conduct thorough mental health assessments during clinical evaluations of long COVID patients. This includes screening for anxiety, depression, PTSD, and cognitive impairments. The advisory recommends using validated assessment tools and considering referrals to mental health specialists when appropriate.
In addition to healthcare providers, individuals with long COVID are encouraged to seek support for their mental well-being. The HHS advisory suggests contacting their healthcare providers for guidance and resources. It also emphasizes the benefits of connecting with support groups or mental health organizations specializing in long COVID. These resources can provide a sense of community and offer strategies for managing mental health challenges.
The advisory further highlights the importance of a multidisciplinary approach to extended COVID care. It underscores the need for collaboration between primary care physicians, specialists, mental health professionals, and rehabilitation therapists to provide comprehensive support to individuals with long COVID. This holistic approach can address the condition’s physical and mental health, improving overall patient outcomes.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, the mental health impact of long COVID remains a significant concern. The HHS advisory is essential for healthcare professionals and individuals affected by long COVID, providing valuable guidance and resources. By recognizing and addressing the mental health symptoms associated with long COVID, we can better support individuals on their path to recovery and improve their quality of life. Mental health must be prioritized as an integral component of extended COVID care, and it’s important to work towards comprehensive solutions to mitigate its impact.