Covid-19: Mental health issues slowing recovery, say docs

People may also suffer from depression and anxiety.

People who are reporting clinical manifestations of Covid-19 may have mental health illnesses, according to doctors in the UAE.

These issues include seemingly less serious health conditions but more pertinent mental and psychological matters that entail mood changes, depression, and decreased exercise tolerance, explain medical professionals.

While many have complained about manifestations of milder Covid-19 infections that include persistent physical pain, like painful joints or muscles, splitting headaches, and chest pain, a general sense of not feeling your best self is equally rampant.

“Beyond the fatigue felt by ‘long haulers’ as they heal after Covid infection, these neuropsychological problems range from headache, dizziness, and lingering loss of smell or taste to mood disorders and deeper cognitive impairment,” said Dr. Leena Prem Prakash, a specialist at Prime Medical Centre – Sheikh Zayed Road.

“People may also suffer from depression and anxiety. Muscle weakness and nerve damage sometimes mean they can’t walk or have reduced exercise tolerance,” she added.

“We would say that probably, between 30 to 50 percent of people with an infection that has clinical manifestations may have some form of mental health issues — anxiety or depression but also non-specific symptoms that include fatigue, sleep and waking abnormalities, a general sense of not being at your best, not being fully recovered in terms of the abilities to perform academically, occupationally, potentially physically.”

Medics explain cardiorespiratory symptoms may also persist after the Covid-19 infection. Exercise intolerance can result from persistent breathing difficulty, muscle weakness, tiredness, and reduced quality of life.

Dr. Osama Gamal, consultant orthopedic surgery/specialized (sports medicine), Medcare Hospital – Sharjah, said: “Not only does the virus spread and increase disease mortality for risk groups, but it also impacts the population physically and psychologically. The pandemic itself and the measures taken to control it including quarantine, social isolation, and social distancing definitely affects the population’s mood and may lead to psychological disorders. They may become more prone to fear, anxiety and depression.”

In addition, almost all patients after recovery from Covid-19 complain of a sense of weakness and exercise intolerance for about a week or even more, as a result of the disease itself.”

While some might need mental health support to get over the trauma, others may not, as it mainly depends on the mental strength of an individual.

Reinforcing the need to exercise daily for a speedy recovery, Dr. Alaa Zedan, Specialist Internal Medicine, Burjeel Hospital for Advanced Surgery, pointed out: “Physical exercise is crucial in the Covid-19 recovery path. It has been found that moderate exercises have helped people to recover and become active quickly. This has also been found to be helpful for people to recover from depression or mood swings.

Also, the support of family and friends is crucial to those recovering after a protracted period of illness. They shall be motivated and encouraged to engage in physical activities slowly. However, it might take some time for these people to recover and become active likely in earlier days,” he added.

Common neuropsychological problems

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lingering loss of smell or taste
  • Mood disorders
  • Deeper cognitive impairment
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep and waking abnormalities
  • A general sense of not being at your best