Ok, so the world has changed. A lot. We all have higher anxiety, more sleepless nights and many of us are googling things that hardly put our mind at ease. We have been staying at home for a while now and we don’t know when it’s going to end.
With all of the uncertainty in the world, it is clear that we are feeling more stress, but we are not necessarily seeking out help. Many of us are not prioritizing self care, though that is exactly what we should be doing.
Increase in Symptoms
The pandemic and quarantine will inevitably have mental health implications for many of us. If we didn’t worry about germs at all before, now it’s a thought in our minds. Will we go back to large social gatherings with no concern after this is all over? A 2004 study after the SARS outbreak showed that 29% of quarantined individuals had PTSD symptoms and 31% of participants had symptoms of depression.
Another mental health condition that can be exacerbated by this crisis is social anxiety. As we socially distance, we strengthen avoidance of situations that might make us anxious. And loneliness and isolation can increase triggers for substance abuse and eating disorders. Lack of schedule and routine, as well as heightened anxiety can greatly impact our sleep. Many of us are struggling with insomnia or feeling more fatigued.
Therapy has never been more accessible
Many therapists have started practicing online therapy and have shifted their practices exclusively to phone and video. You can have online therapy in the comfort of your own home. If your long hours or commute made therapy difficult before, those obstacles aren’t a factor at this time. And if you’re interested in couples therapy or family therapy, now is the time to do it.
Many clients prefer online therapy because home provides a comforting atmosphere where they feel more relaxed. There are also benefits to your therapist being able to see you in your home environment.
Insurance coverage is changing
Over the last few months, the federal government and health insurers are increasing our access to treatment. Coverage is expanding and many states are loosening restrictions on online therapy reimbursement. This pandemic will likely change much of our current health care system in many ways. Some state insurers are already agreeing to expand access to mental health services. My hope is that mental health reimbursement rates improve during this time of great need for services. That could mean that even out of network services would reimbursed more often and at a higher rate.
Many therapies are effective online
Many different types of therapy work well when practiced online. For instance, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (or CBT-i) has historically been provided online, even before COVID-19 started. CBT-i is just as effective online, as it is in person. And EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing) is another therapy that can be done as an online therapy. EMDR helps with symptoms of trauma and anxiety, which are both at all-time highs. Online EMDR therapy has an advantage because clients are at home and comfortable while talking about trauma and anxiety. Talk therapy and mind-body therapies are also very beneficial online.
We need healthy habits
Many of us are struggling with uncertainty right now. Structure can make our lives feel predictable and give us a sense of understanding what is next. Without structure, we can lose purpose and a feeling of safety. During these chaotic times, it is important to focus on learning or maintaining habits that will help you. The more time that goes by, the more we can let things slip. Not addressing the issues that are currently arising will prolong the impact of this crisis on our mental health.
It can be tempting to talk to family or friends about what is bothering you, but that can be taxing on your relationships. It’s important to connect with someone who can help now, as opposed to waiting weeks or months until symptoms worsen. We need help now more than ever.