Could Your Covid-19 Infection Be the Cause of Your Depression or Anxiety?

Illustration of woman around infection symbols

Publish date

Sep 8, 2021

Post Author

Healthy U Behavioral Health


Your COVID-19 infection has been over for months, and you’re probably feeling fine physically. However, that doesn’t mean everything is back to normal. Outside of things like headaches, it’s not uncommon to find yourself struggling with very common daily tasks. The fatigue you experience makes getting out of bed or taking a trip to the kitchen feel like a complete chore. One of the most troubling feelings for you may be a feeling of dread or a nervousness so serious you can feel your heart pounding. Constant worries now prevent you from getting a good night of rest.

Healthcare professionals are still learning about the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the human brain. According to some studies from Wuhan, China, after the virus enters the brain, more than one-third of infected patients develop neurologic symptoms. Also, in addition to infections of the brain, it’s known that the pandemic has resulted in worsening mental health outcomes because of isolation, loneliness, unemployment, financial stressors, and the loss of loved ones. More people are getting prescriptions for antidepressants, domestic violence has increased, and suicide issues are on the rise, especially in young adults.

COVID and Mental Disorders

Only recently have mental health disorders been related to COVID-19. A more recent study of health records of 69 million people found that COVID-19 infections increased the risk of issues with mental health, dementia, or insomnia. People with mental health problems were 65% more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19, which may be related to certain behavioral patterns and lifestyle factors like smoking, inflammation, or specific medication.

This is the first large study to show that infection via COVID-19 definitively increases the risk of developing mental disorders. Also, because of the sense of worry having COVID-19 or just being sick in general can bring, there can be an increase in stress or anxious feelings. Overall, though, the long-term mental health effects of COVID-19 infection are still unknown.

After the influenza pandemic of 1918–19, offspring of mothers infected during pregnancy were found to have higher rates of schizophrenia. Some believe that a virus infection during pregnancy may be one risk factor for the development of mental illness related to the body’s immune response. If COVID-19 infection even slightly increases the risk of mental illness in offspring, this could have a large impact on the population level, given the high numbers of infections worldwide.

Is Your Mental Disorder a Result of COVID-19?

It’s normal to feel fatigued, stressed, or sad because of either the effects of COVID-19 on your body or common life circumstances. Although this is true, even if you screen positive for depression or anxiety at your doctor’s visit, remember that screening tools are not diagnostic. People with physical symptoms of COVID-19 infection often screen positive for depression, as symptoms of infection often overlap with symptoms of depression.

Poor sleep, impaired concentration, and reduced appetite may be due to a medical illness instead of depression. This is another reason why your physical health plays a huge role in your mental health. Positive habits like drinking water, maintaining a good diet, sleeping, and exercising can better prepare your mind and body.

In order to get an accurate diagnosis, you may need to wait to monitor as symptoms may develop. Although antidepressants are often prescribed for mood and anxiety disorders, it’s important to know mild to moderate symptoms often go away on their own when life circumstances or the environment improves.

If this is your first episode of depression or your first experience of anxiety, you may not necessarily need any treatment from a specialist, especially if your symptoms are mild. If you do start a medication, make sure to regularly review your treatment with your doctor and make changes as needed. Meditation and journaling can help you collect your thoughts so that you can get a better understanding of when your unwanted thoughts or feelings.

Minimizing Mental Health Issues From COVID-19

There are ways to minimize the negative effects on mental health during or after COVID-19 infection. You can get vaccinated, which can help with mental disorders by easing your mind throughout the day. When you are out running errands, make sure to continue to wear your mask and socially distance yourself. Do your best to take advantage of your resources, like different forms of coaching or therapy that can help you along the way. Believe it or not, physical activity can be effective when it comes to your mood, anxiety, memory, and heart health.

You don’t have to let the anxiety or depression after having COVID-19 continue to affect your life negatively. There are many things you can do to help yourself in the long run. First and foremost, it’s important to take care of yourself physically after having COVID-19. Make sure that your hands are clean as much as possible, wear your mask when you’re out, and practice social distancing. If you feel as though your anxiety or depression due to COVID-19 has gotten out of hand, there’s plenty of help. HealthyU has plenty of healthcare professionals that can put you on track to get your mind at ease. Our outpatient programs give you access to a counselor for up to three days a week. This is a great option for those who wish to continue school, work, or other obligations. Learn more about our mental health outpatient program by contacting us at (619) 542-9542.