Yesterday, I wrote about how depression puts people at higher risk for severe covid. Today I want to talk about another problem with covid. Apparently, covid can cause depression. “[O]ver half of a U.S. COVID-19 survivor sample reported symptoms of depression months after recovery, those with more severe COVID symptoms being more likely to have depression.”
They think there are two main reasons why covid can cause depression. The first is the body’s immune response to the disease. The immune response can cause the following:
- Nerve inflammation
- Blood-brain-barrier disruption
- Peripheral immune cell invasion into the central nervous system
- Impaired nerve transmission
- Hypothalamic-pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis dysfunction
- Microglia activation and indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) induction (COVID-19: The Depression Connection (webmd.com))
Now, I’m certainly no expert. A lot of the things in that list are beyond me. But one thing I do know is that all of them can lead to psychiatric disorders.
The second reason basically boils down to stress. Having covid is an incredibly stressful experience, especially severe covid or long covid. With severe covid, where the patient needs to be hospitalized, it’s a traumatic experience. It even leads to PTSD in some cases. With long covid, there’s a sense of hopelessness. The patients start to think they will never get better.
Even regular covid causes a lot of stress. The most obvious way is the need to isolate. Isolation is really hard on people. We are social animals. No matter how introverted we may be, we still crave human contact. The loneliness caused by isolation can lead to depression. Some other things that are stressful about it are missing time at work, lost wages, and problems with cognition (COVID Depression and Anxiety | Johns Hopkins Medicine). Prolonged stress like this can tip anyone into depression.
So, if you or a loved one has had covid, even if it was months ago, keep an eye out for the symptoms of depression, Depression Checklist – Reproductive Health | CDC. If you see the symptoms, please talk to a medical professional as soon as possible.