For COVID-Positive People, Mental Anguish Can be Ongoing

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2020 will be the year forever marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve all been subject to quarantine, mask-wearing and social distancing, and the psychological ramifications that come with them. For some, 2020 has been incredibly rough—lack of social interaction and a hermit lifestyle have taken their toll. For those who’ve tested positive and lived through their COVID-19 diagnosis, even deeper psychological effects can linger.

There’s a tremendous amount of emotional baggage that comes on the heels of a COVID-19 diagnosis. It’s important that post-positive patients find an emotional outlet for this trauma and take strides to unburden themselves.

The stress of sickness

The first and biggest stressor of a positive COVID-19 diagnosis is the lingering stress of being sick. From the stress of missing work to the physical stress of your body’s recovery, it’s easy to fall into a pit of anxiety that stunts recovery and overwhelms your consciousness. It’s not easy to break the cycle of stress, but it’s a critical step in putting a positive COVID-19 diagnosis behind you.

The faster a person sheds stress, the faster they’ll recover from their illness. A Harvard Health article lends credence to this idea and found that even “mild depression related to your setback can weaken the motivation and attention you need to take better care of yourself.”

The uncertainty of infection

There are still numerous questions about the long-term ramifications of COVID-19. What are its long-term effects on our bodies? What persistent damage stems from it? Does it leave you compromised against any future illnesses? So many unanswered questions about something so important as your health can create instant anxiety.

It’s vital to think logically about COVID-19—especially post-recovery. The scientific community is hard at work learning everything there is to know about this virus. It’s already resulted in three separate vaccines in less than a year! It’s only a matter of time before we’ve completely dissected the virus and its long-term ramifications. Until we know more, it’s important not to put yourself through the added stress and suffering of worry about the unknown.

The social ramifications

In circles of people who take the pandemic seriously, there’s almost a taboo or stigma associated with a positive diagnosis. The perception is that you didn’t try hard enough to be safe or you did something selfish and caught the virus as a result. These perceptions simply aren’t true or rational—especially if your life consistently puts you in the path of the virus.

It’s important to remember that we’re in the midst of a pandemic! Just like condoms are 99% effective, it’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as a sure thing. Even if you do everything right, you can still catch the virus. A positive diagnosis isn’t something to be ashamed of—especially if you’ve followed it with isolation and a proper approach to recovery. What matters is that you’re doing everything you can to keep yourself and others safe.

The inexplicable shame

One of the biggest sources of stress, anxiety and depression comes from within. No one will make you feel quite as bad as yourself when it comes to a COVID-19 diagnosis, and it’s important to remember that. While your first instinct might be to feel shame after a positive diagnosis, it should immediately be followed by a logical, rational look at your situation.

Being sick isn’t a source of shame. People get sick all the time, from the common cold to terminal cancer. We don’t look at these people and chastise them for their illness—so don’t chastise yourself for a positive COVID-19 result. Instead, focus your energy where it should be focused: on getting better. Don’t feel shame about being sick; channel your outlook into an optimistic recovery.

The guilt of recovery

Even after they’ve recovered and gone back to their daily life without lingering issues, many people will continue to feel guilt. They feel bad because they’re just fine, while hundreds of thousands of other people have died from this pandemic. It’s a form of survivor’s guilt, and it’s important to seek help in rationalizing your recovery. Remember, it’s okay to be okay.

Overcoming the anguish

The psychological effects of life after a positive COVID-19 diagnosis can linger if they’re not addressed. Talk them out with your spouse, friend or family member. Read articles and literature from others who feel the same way. Seek therapy and telemedicine counseling to work through these feelings. It’s okay to ask for help and even more important to get it.

Recovering from COVID-19 to live with continued anguish isn’t really recovering—it means you’re still holding onto your diagnosis. Achieving good mental health is just as important as getting yourself physically well again.

Janna Breslin

Janna Breslin was born and raised in Southern California and is a former pharmaceutical representative for one of the leading Pharmaceutical companies in the world.

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