ENCINO, Calif. – COVID-19 has a deadly impact on the human body, but its impact on our mental health may be deadly too. The threat of contagion can twist our psychological responses to ordinary interactions, leading us to behave in unexpected ways. Alongside the almost 155,000 deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 (as of August 3), new research suggests that the growing epidemic of “deaths of despair” is also increasing due to the pandemic.

What You Need To Know

  • The threat of COVID-19 can take its toll our mental health, causing irritability, anxiety, rage and chronic fatigue

  • The pandemic has caused mass unemployment, social isolation and uncertainty, which increases drug and alcohol misuse, and suicides

  • A recent study predicts 75,000 additional "deaths of despair" in the U.S. due to severe trauma people experience from of the threat of the virus

  • A psychologist stresses the importance of maintaining a self-care routine in our day-to-day to reduce anxiety

Helping people who have experienced some type of trauma in their past is what psychologist Dr. Pam Sobo specializes in. But the pandemic has created an entirely new type of trauma for her patients: They’re all living it right now.

“The main concern of mental health professionals right now is that we educate people on what to do because we are in the trauma now. So some people may not feel that they're in the trauma now and not notice some of the signs and symptoms,” said Sobo.

There are different ways people are experiencing and reacting to pandemic-related trauma.

“Many people are going to get angry and respond in that way. Some people will go into depression which is a hypo state,” Sobo said.

During a Zoom session with her patient, Kat, they discuss the daily impact of pandemic life.

“I noticed that kind of hopeless, helpless, don't know if it's worth getting out of bed in the morning, feeling. What can I do, you know, the problem seems so big and I feel so small," said Kat.

The mental dangers related to the pandemic are now as real as the physical dangers of the virus. A recent study from the Well Being Trust, a nonprofit foundation, estimates that COVID-19 may lead to 75,000 additional U.S. deaths of despair as mass unemployment, social isolation, and uncertainty about the future are increasing drug and alcohol misuse, and suicides.

“Nobody knows when this will end and how it's going to affect them on all of the different levels. And that is what has most people very concerned,” Sobo said.

Dr. Sobo is advising her patients to look out for the signs of pandemic related issues including:

  • Severe irritability
  • Constant anxiety
  • Rage
  • Chronic fatigue

While COVID restrictions have prevented people from doing many things, Dr. Sobo says it’s important to create a self-care routine doing things that bring us some joy. Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it's a simple concept in theory, it's something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety.

Dr. Sobo says we can’t stop the pandemic, but she encourages us to focus on the things we can control – like communicating with friends and family.

“Stay in touch with the people, reach out every day to somebody. Don't hide, just keep reaching out, even if it's really hard for you reach out,” Sobo said.

The Well Being Trust report also noted that if the country fails to invest in solutions that can help heal the nation’s isolation, pain and suffering, the collective impact of COVID-19 will be even more devastating.

Click here for more information on the study.