Fear, depression, loneliness: Mental health concerns amid COVID-19

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The novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19 disease, was unknown to most until recently.

Since December last year, many have come to fear the virus, creating feelings of insecurity, loneliness and helplessness.

After first appearing in Wuhan, China, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 177 countries and territories.

According to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University, nearly 684,700 cases have been reported worldwide, with the death toll above 32,100, and 145,696 recoveries.

In Greece, the pandemic has taken the lives of 37 people and the total number of confirmed cases mounted to 1,061.

Greece went into lockdown to stem the spread of the virus, with authorities advising people to avoid social gatherings. But, consequences for mental state can be serious and can lead to a chain of intense and unhealthy feelings, especially for long periods of time.

The hashtag "#Menoumespiti," which means, "staying at home" became a slogan on social media groups created for people to share views and feelings about the situation.

Experts believe that any kind of interaction is crucial in such times.

Clinical psychologist and psychotherapist Thomas Maliaroudakis said that this can help as it creates bonding and comforts people that share similar issues.

Social creatures

Maliaroudakis explained that human beings are social creatures and social isolation is something unfamiliar and new, therefore a significant amount of the population will find it difficult to adjust to this new situation due to the loss of control.

He added that a sense of helplessness will be felt. This helplessness as a result can have a serious impact on people's mental health and it can be very overwhelming.

One to two weeks of isolation can be beneficial as working stress and social anxiety is less, explained Fragiskos Gonidakis, psychiatrist at Egenitio University Hospital.

However, Gonidakis said long periods of isolation can create a state of chronic stress.

Isolation means that there is no easy access to every day necessities such as visiting a doctor or easy access to medication, Gonidakis said.

"A deterioration of the general health of the population is expected," he added.

This stress can contribute to the manifestation of anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and phobias. In addition, people who are already suffering from bipolar disorders, psychosis, OCD and eating disorders may have a higher rate of relapsing, he explained.

The state of isolation is something new to humans, especially the lack of free movement.

"Being isolated at home, also having to face ourselves away from distractions of everyday life, may bring unpleasant feelings that the individual may not be ready to face or to deal with," said Dimitris Chourmouzis, a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist.

Disorders

According to the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, COVID-19 can lead to fears for our health and of our loved ones, sleeping and eating disorders, difficulty in concentration, increase in substance abuse as well as worsening chronic health problems.

Experts also believe that genetically inclined people to anxiety may be at higher risk than the general population.

It is very normal to feel fear for ourselves, our loved ones or fear for the potential threat to our health, experts said.

"Each time I open the TV I dread what I will hear," said Spiros Kostantinou, a 25-year-old private sector employee.

"Yes, I am afraid. Yes, I do feel alone at times as I live on my own and this is harder for me. My family is not close by," he added.

Common habits such as going out and socializing, going for a coffee or meeting people are no longer an option.

"The one thing I do not have and truly miss is human contact," said Aliki Hoidas, 45, a self-employee.

There is another side to this isolation, a brighter and more positive one. For some, it could be called a reboot or a self-cleansing state.

"It could be a chance to reevaluate things in life being away from the madness of the outside world," self-employed Christina Dimitriadou, 45, told Anadolu Agency.

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