‘Anxiety syndrome’ and the long term effects of Covid-19 have prevented thousands of people, even with milder viral load, from resuming their normal life weeks after they are cured
It’s not easy to get back some semblance of normalcy in their lives after having dealt successfully with the scourge of the pandemic. Reclamation of normal life has many challenges, Covid-19 and its aftermath has had a profound impact, both psychologically and physiologically—and is dubbed as anxiety syndrome—that may last for months after Covid infection is cured.
It manifests in various ways, in some cases, it mimics mental health conditions, like anxiety attacks or post-traumatic stress disorder, even obsessive-compulsive disorder—like people measuring their body temperature and oxygen levels dozens of times a day, body ache and fever is reported by many after weeks of infection being cured. People feel crestfallen, almost depressed, as they are forced to stay home, and social interaction dry up. Stress is a contributing factor, Add to this, other complications like uncontrolled diabetics, fungus attack, and hypertension to name a few.
“This is a major issue—more distressing than the ailment itself,” says Ruchi Srivastava, 50, businesswoman, who resides in Noida with her husband—Mayank, daughter—Srishti and son—Kshitij. She was infected for three weeks in April and remained isolated in a room. She spent time reading and watching television, reading up on recent research on Covid-19, and after a while, was enjoying the solitude that’s otherwise an impossibility in her busy life, multitasking most of the time.
Her ordeal actually started after she was tested negative and tried to piece together her normal routine. She would get mild fever twice during the day—11 am to 1 pm and then again in the evening between 4:30 to 6:30 pm—now for more than two weeks. Fever is accompanied by palpitations—the loud pounding of heart—was most disconcerting. She dreads these few hours, and is unable to do anything, an experience so overwhelming that she can’t distract herself by watching television or listening to music. “It’s an ordeal,” she says. She has got all the tests done, multiple times, the results are normal—all her vitals are in place but for the mild fever. She regularly checks her fever and oxygen levels.
“I have been advised by the doctor that this may go on for a few weeks to about three months,” she says and adds, “it might be stress-related,” But what puzzles her is that why stress is manifested in palpitation only at a specific time during the day. Although, in most cases, heart palpitations though worrisome, are harmless.
Shradha Narayan, 30, is a lawyer and spends her day doing a host of activities—work and home—rather tirelessly, very active for 15 hours a day. This was before she got infected in mid-April. Even during the Covid positive days, she could spend hours reading and wasn’t particularly intolerable. “One day I studied for the whole day, next day I was confined to bed,” she explains that she couldn’t slog much in that condition.
However, after recovering, now for more than two weeks, she’s still not able to function anywhere close to what she is used to. She has recurring pain in joints, back and ankle, and when that happens, she has to lie down for a few hours—that’s the only way one gets rid of it. And if she overexerts the pain resurfaces. She has got all the tests done, there’s mild inflammation, but nothing serious. The recurring pain is fairly distressing, though.
“I get tired very quickly, and there’s no way I can function when I’m tired—I have to lie down, even sitting quietly doesn’t help,” Shradha explains. She’s barely able to read for more than two hours, and feels out of sorts, and doesn’t feel confident to venture out of the house. The only time she goes out is to take her, Muffy, for a short walk. What is perturbing is that this is going on for weeks now, and there seems little respite.
Ruchi and Shradha are people who have been cured and they have not inherited any serious health complications because of the pandemic and their infection, in the first place, wasn’t severe either. And yet they find it difficult to resume their lives. Scientists around the world are worried about the “unknowns” of the Covid-19 virus that has the capability to adapt, is always changing and can cause a new variant or a strain that spreads remarkably fast, incite fear amongst people, doctors, scientists and researchers, alike.
Profs Ana Nikčević from Kingston University of London and Marcantonio Spada from London South Bank University have developed the concept of ‘Covid-19 anxiety syndrome’. In spite of the development of vaccines that offer the new promise of the return of the old way of life, many experience ‘anxiety syndrome’ like a study by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Trust show that between June 24–30, 2020, 40% of adults in America reported at least one adverse mental health concern, including anxiety, depression, substance use, and even suicidal ideation.
Also, fear of leaving the house, frequent checking for symptoms, monitoring temperature and oxygen levels despite not being a high risk vulnerable group, and withdrawing and avoiding any social contact with people. “Investigators note that people with this syndrome tend to experience increased post-traumatic symptoms, researchers suggest that, in some people, the isolation, fear of contracting SARS-CoV-2, and uncertainty during the pandemic may have led to the collection of symptoms that make up this new syndrome,” reports Medical News Today.
While factors like overexposure to social media and news, disruption of a familiar way of life, lockdowns, and restrictions, the fast-spreading virus with many variants, fear of uncertainty contributes to ‘anxiety syndrome’. Though, it’s not all in the mind and has real physiological implications, but people with “higher extraversion (people obtaining gratification from outside oneself—enjoy interactions, are enthusiastic, talkative, assertive and gregarious), conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness may have a lower risk,” points out Medical News Today.
The fear of the prevailing uncertainty and the ‘unknowns’ about the highly adaptive coronavirus and its long-term effects continue has impacted people’s life long after they are cured. Hundreds of people like Ruchi and Shradha are realizing it the hard way.