Depression can make it hard to do daily activities and can lead to unhealthy coping responses. Americans struggling with depression are more likely to face additional strain due to COVID-19 restrictions and impact. That’s why telehealth has become a focus during the global pandemic, with services like Talkspace stepping up as an alternative to traditional therapy visits with online therapy.
Americans face depression in high numbers. Research from the National Institute of Mental Health found that 17.3 million adults faced some form of major depression in 2017. According to NIMH, “Major depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States. For some individuals, major depression can result in severe impairments that interfere with or limit one’s ability to carry out major life activities.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic, Americans were already dealing with depression with more than 7% facing “major depression,” as defined by NIMH.
This means the current environment is rough for many Americans already struggling with mental illnesses. Hilary Weinstein, LCSW notes, “Whatever a person’s circumstances are during quarantine — accessibility to a person’s typical routines, interactions, and social opportunities have decreased. The combination of this with the increased time that many people have alone with their thoughts can exacerbate negative self-talk and cognitive distortions.”
Research has shown isolation can lead to increased depression and stress. An excerpt from an article published by Lancet notes:
“Quarantine is often an unpleasant experience for those who undergo it. Separation from loved ones, the loss of freedom, uncertainty over disease status, and boredom can, on occasion, create dramatic effects. Suicide has been reported, substantial anger generated, and lawsuits brought following the imposition of quarantine in previous outbreaks. The potential benefits of mandatory mass quarantine need to be weighed carefully against the possible psychological costs. Successful use of quarantine as a public health measure requires us to reduce, as far as possible, the negative effects associated with it.” (2020. The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it)
In many cases, these methods of quarantine and isolation help reduce the spread of COVID-19. However, solutions mitigating the damage done with complete isolation are very important. Talkspace is an organization committed to offering those solutions that reduce the negative effects of quarantine and increased strain caused by the pandemic. The Talkspace founders have been fighting for more recognition for telehealth and it’s many applications, but recent events have highlighted the need for this type of health infrastructure.
Talkspace offers remote therapy sessions that can be done via a smart device in the comfort of home or anywhere you can connect to the internet. The goal for Talkspace is to create a setting where patients can connect with licensed therapists in a convenient and contactless way. This is not necessarily meant to completely replace in-office therapy, says Talkspace, but is a more flexible solution than traditional therapy.
One of the worst things that a person with depression can do is cut themselves off from others. Isolation is more common than ever with stay-at-home orders, but turning to complete isolation can be extremely dangerous. WebMD points out that mental health often feels like being a burden for others. Seth Gillihan, Ph.D. notes, “You might worry that your condition is too emotionally heavy like your own dark clouds are keeping them from enjoying the sun. Perhaps you fear that the stress will wear them out mentally and physically, and even affect their mental health…Notice when you’re thinking things that lead to guilt about your mental health…Remember that thoughts are not facts, but rather stories your mind creates that may or may not be true. When possible, talk to someone you love and trust about your thoughts; they’ll probably be able to help you spot overly negative thoughts about yourself.”
One of the key solutions for treating depression is through the support of mental health professionals. Regular medications should be continued and therapies shouldn’t be interrupted—so options, like having medications shipped or attending virtual therapy sessions, are important for keeping those treatments in place. Newfound depression shouldn’t be ignored since untreated mental health illnesses can worsen and cause additional health complications.
Patients that are facing mild and severe depression will likely find they are feeling lethargic, may turn to unhealthy eating, stop pursuing social activities, and could turn to self-harm. According to Healthline, depression has been linked to weakened immune systems as well. The body can experience pain caused by depression in the forms of headaches, joint pain, nerve pain, and more. Depression increases the risk of heart attack and constricts the flow of blood. Feelings of fatigue are often met with insomnia and hopelessness.
In 2017, the World Health Organization found that depression was the leading cause of disability and a major contributor to the burden of disease all over the world.
Depression could take the form of lacking self-care. This might be a sign for someone who starts to feel unmotivated to shower, get dressed, brush teeth, or pursue normal hygiene. Signs of depression could look like laziness, overindulgence, or clinginess. A change in appetite or weight (5% of body weight within a month) could also be linked to depression.
With a wide range of symptoms and severity, depression can seem severe or start in a way that is almost undetectable. While depression could lead to severe thoughts of suicide, it could also take the form of being more distracted, indecisive, or unable to focus than normal.
If you are considering suicide or having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 immediately to get support from a trained counselor.
For those who believe they might struggle with depression, seeking a mental health expert for professional advice and treatment is important. Professionals offer coping skills, self-care instructions, and medications that may be needed to combat the struggle against depression.
Sadness and grief are common emotions that are felt due to disappointment, frustration, and irritable situations in our lives. While these instances are normal, depression is classified as far more long-lasting feelings that are not directly tied to events. An event could cause depression, but the depression itself lasts beyond the event itself and permeates other aspects of life.
Depression can be a single episode or reoccurring. Low-level chronic depression can last for years with feelings of deep sadness, low energy, and indecision.
Not all who struggle with depression will seek help, however. Research from DBSA found that nearly two-thirds of those who struggle with symptoms of depression do not seek out proper treatment.