The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on the country economically, politically and socially. In addition to infecting more than 19 million individuals in the United States and impacting their physical health, it has also affected the mental health of countless millions more.
The stress of a global pandemic combined with social isolation can lead to a weakened immune system and a deteriorating mental state. Social scientists are warning that the coronavirus pandemic may impact mental health for months or even years to come.
Students, who are adapting to changing educational environments and rely heavily on their social networks for stress relief, may be particularly affected by social distancing and other implications of the pandemic. Here are 5 signs COVID-19 is affecting student mental health.
- Increased anxiety or paranoia. Uncertainty and the fear of the unknown can increase symptoms of anxiety. Students may show signs of increased anxiety about health or safety-related issues.
- Stress. Social isolation raises the stress hormone Cortisol, which can lead to impaired cognitive performance. Stressed students may be more distracted or emotionally volatile.
- Irritability. A review of 24 studies of quarantine during disease found that most of the studies reported negative psychological effects, including PTSD symptoms, confusion and anger.
- Lethargy or fatigue. Grief, fear, uncertainty, and constantly adapting to new information can tax the nervous system and zap mental and emotional energy. Students may tire more easily or have a hard time focusing on detail-oriented work.
- Depression. Social rhythm reinforcers—such as going to school or social events—help regulate and maintain mood. If students experience a change to their regular social routine — such as canceled clubs or sports leagues—it may contribute to a depressive state.
This year has brought many new changes and stressors, and it is normal to be psychologically impacted. Recognizing mental and emotional changes is the first step toward effectively addressing them.