1Larkin Community Hospital, FL, USA
The emergence of the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic brought with it unforeseen and unprecedented conditions for millions. Mandatory nationwide lockdowns, self-quarantining, and understandable anxiety about the unpredictable future are significant stressors and are having both detectable and undetectable impacts on mental and physical wellbeing. Negative affectivity including depression, loneliness, boredom, self-harm, and domestic violence doubled in the past months, as well as financial burden and unemployment. Mental health silently affects everyone and could be a deciding factor in recovery and remission of many health conditions and disorders. This paper assesses the impact of psychosocial stressors and the pandemic on the human body, focusing on the unseen effects of mental health that could be keeping the door open for COVID-19.
Material(s) and Method(s):
We conducted a literature review of databases such as PubMed, Google Scholar, and ScienceDirect, using search words like “mental health”, “COVID-19”, “psychological effects”, “toxic stress”, and “SARS-CoV-2”, and included systematic reviews, reviews, case reports, and cohort studies.
Stress disrupts body homeostasis, prompting a cascade of hormones and factors (such as increased cortisol and DHEA) that mount a bodily response. Mental stress has been shown to cause structural changes in the brain, in the hippocampus and amygdala, which can lead to memory disorders and changes in cognition and learning. Long-term activation of the stress response system causes overexposure of cortisol and subsequent deleterious effects throughout the body. Emerging mental health issues from the cumulative effects of this pandemic’s psychosocial stressors could become chronic health issues or encourage isolation and increase the stigma that already surrounds mental health.
As the world continues to seek answers to curtail the pandemic and bring life back to normal, attention must be given to how mental health is handled during this crisis. It is time to push for integrating mental health with primary care, to treat both mind and body regularly to optimize improvement.