Over a year into the novel coronavirus pandemic, the effects on society have been drastic. While society and daily life have changed alongside physical health for the many people directly affected by the disease, mental health has also been greatly impacted by COVID-19.
During a time where the future is uncertain, it is normal for fear and anxiety to play a large role. Over time, these emotions and perspectives harm mental health, with isolation because of quarantine only aiding in the manifestation of depression, anxiety, and other conditions.1
These impacts have also been noticed in children, who also have faced trauma, anxiety, and isolation because of the pandemic.2
One of the most notable mental effects of the pandemic is increased stress.3 Whether out of concern for the disease itself, current events associated with the pandemic, or with job or home insecurity, stress levels are rising around the country. While the rise on its own can be concerning, it can also lead to the development of other mental conditions such as depression or anxiety.
There have been several studies conducted to explore the exact statistics of COVID’s impact on mental health. Occurrences of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and general stress have increased by up to 70%.4 These increases have strongly affected younger generations, especially the female population.
With an increase in mental health issues during the pandemic, more attention has been given to the statistics of substance use disorders as well.
Studies have long shown that substance use disorders have the potential to rise during periods of high stress. As a result, research has been dedicated to detecting whether substance use disorder rates have risen during COVID. Substance use disorder rates have risen by approximately 11% throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.5
During periods of distress, counseling can be beneficial in managing stress and anxiety. With social distancing regulations, virtual counseling has allowed mental health practices to become more readily available.
Types of counseling include:
For those looking to maintain or improve their mental health, counseling can be a beneficial way to talk through existing problems while also learning new coping mechanisms. However, these aren’t the only benefits of mental health counseling.
Having the skills and knowledge to work through problems in a healthy way can give individuals a new sense of confidence.
Understanding the source of concerns and how to prevent or otherwise navigate negative reactions allow for better personal insight.
Mental health techniques and stress coping skills are valuable life skills that allow individuals to better navigate stressful situations. These skills can extend further than the pandemic to day-to-day life.
Existentialism and life insecurity are common forms of personal distress. By understanding personal thought processes and actions better, individuals will be able to find more contentment in life, especially in external and uncontrollable circumstances.
By learning to recognize the beginnings of problems or triggers, individuals prevent future distress even though they may be unable to prevent future distressing situations.
Both counseling and psychotherapy, when utilized separately or together, can be beneficial in working through and preventing future mental health issues. However, there are differences between them.
The most significant difference is the skillset of a counselor versus a psychotherapist. A psychotherapist will have the skillset to counsel their patient, but vice versa may not be true.
Counseling involves working through a problem, and it can extend beyond the mental health field to include aspects such as spiritual guidance or even financial planning. A counselor offers support to an individual, while sessions are highly self-driven and directed.
Psychotherapy, however, is a long-term treatment prescribed to address problems, behaviors, mental conditions, and thought processes to reach recovery from an issue or condition. Psychotherapy’s focus is on recurrent mental or behavioral issues, and it does not extend into other areas of life like counseling.
During a distressing time, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, elevated feelings of stress and anxiety are expected, but treatment options are available to manage negative feelings during this time.
For individuals unable to access in-person counseling, telehealth services have made mental health techniques more accessible. Through these services, patients can access networks of mental health professionals such as counselors to schedule virtual sessions for online counseling.
Self-guided counseling apps have also become a popular option. These use a professional resource to teach stress-managing techniques, such as breathing exercises. For those unable or uncomfortable with speaking directly to a counselor, apps allow for individuals to seek online counseling from the comfort of their homes.