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Caring for the mental health in post COVID-19: HMC encourages to seek help

The Peninsula

As COVID-19 restrictions ease and people move into a ‘new normal,’ there is still the potential for their mental wellbeing to be adversely impacted, according to psychiatrist.

Generalised anxiety, adjustment disorder and panic disorder are common mental health conditions seen with the beginning of COVID-19 pandemic and it is likely to continue during the gradual lifting of restrictions and post COVID-19, said Dr. Mustafa Abdul Karim, Psychiatry Resident, Mental Health Service, Hamad Medical Corporation.

“Fear, worry, and stress are normal responses to perceived or real threats, and at times when we are faced with uncertainty or the unknown. So it is normal and understandable that people are experiencing fear in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. If anyone is experiencing stress or anxiety related to COVID-19, it is highly recommended to contact the mental health hotline 16000,” he told The Peninsula.

According to Dr. Abdul Karim, during lifting of restrictions, some people may feel particularly anxious about reconnecting. For example, people with social anxiety might experience heightened anxiety about the prospect of socialising again. Also people who fear germs, such as some people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), might worry about re-entering public spaces. Individuals who were already struggling with mental illness before COVID-19 are now facing even greater challenges and some relapse from recovery of mental health problems.

“Stress during COVID-19 outbreak can sometimes cause changes in sleep or eating patterns, difficulty in sleeping or concentrating, worsening of chronic health problems, worsening of mental health conditions,” said Dr. Abdul Karim.

Dr. Abdul Karim explained that a psychiatric emergency is an acute disturbance of behaviour, thought or mood of a patient which if untreated may lead to harm, either to the individual or to others in the environment.

Further, based on data from the 2013-2016 Ebola epidemics and the SARS pandemic of 2003, those who are quarantined are at risk of developing mental disorders like depression. “Some research show those who are quarantined can have mental stress for more than six months. For temporary stress and anxiety seeking help from mental health hotline is recommended,” said Dr. Abdul Karim.

Dr. Abdul Karim also advised people to take care of their body, to eat healthy, well balanced meals, do exercise and get plenty of sleep. “Anxiety levels can be reduced by doing regular exercise, avoiding smoking and having a balance diet. Coping with stress in a healthy way will make you, the people you care about, and your community stronger,” he added.


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