Stressors and Mental Health Effects of COVID-19

I was fortunate enough to interview Dr. Amalia Londono Tobon (@DrLondonoTobon, of the Child Study Center of Yale University School of Medicine. She is a clinician and researcher on the prevention of mental health disorders with special focus on child and perinatal psychiatry.

I recorded our interview in which we discussed the different types of stress responses, with focus on what she is observing in response to COVID-19.

She describes “flattening the curve” of our stress response to decrease the physical and mental toll these responses will have on our health if left unmitigated, similar to the toll COVID-19 will place on our healthcare system if unchecked.

Her key message in our first interview is the importance of early recognition of our stress responses and severity of that response. Common stress responses include shock, anger, despair, guilt, grief, sadness, helplessness. These responses can affect our concentration and ability to work and make decisions. Physically, they can affect our sleep, nutrition, and sex drive. They can also weaken our immunity and increase our blood pressure and heart rate.

These can in turn increase our susceptibility to COVID19 and other viruses.

Her second key message was the importance of recognizing that our stress response can compromise our functioning, and that this may manifest as a change from our pre-COVID-19 baseline. Personal care and nutrition are common examples that we may see affected, particularly during quarantine interventions. As are changes in our relationships, such as frequent arguments or isolation.

The most severe of these consequences are disorders including major depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorders, among others. Panic attacks are a particularly worrisome manifestation, in which a person may come to the ER (a high risk zone for contracting COVID-19).

I hope you enjoy the first part of our interview.

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