PSYCHOLOGY – The consequences of the coronavirus epidemic, as manifold and diverse as they are, know no borders. They are sanitary, of course, but also economic and social. Some have lost their jobs, others can no longer join their spouses abroad, many are in mourning. Other consequences, less visible today, could be added to this non-exhaustive list, and they are psychological and mental.
The announcement of confinement initially caused a wave of panic. This took place, longer than expected, more or less pleasant depending on the individual, before a very gradual deconfinement. And then the long-awaited summer vacation arrived. But at the beginning of September, the epidemic seems to be starting up again, in parallel with an uncertain start to school and return to work. And this is what questions psychiatrists, psychologists and psychotherapists.
“The psychological effects are sometimes slow and delayed. However, the epidemic continues, and, in this context of significant stress, there is a risk of psychological consequences, ”said Antoine Pelissolo, psychiatrist, head of the psychiatry department at Henri-Mondor hospital, contacted by The HuffPost.
Like his colleagues, he says he is currently seeing an increase in requests for appointments, from “people who did not consult before, sometimes for very serious matters”. The same goes for Gladys Mondière, psychologist and co-president of the French Federation of Psychologists and Psychology (FFPP): “August is usually quieter than the others”. This time, however, he was not. Same story, also, with the clinical psychologist Samuel Dock, co-author of "The new malaise in civilization": "We are seeing an increase in requests for consultation, it is radical", he emphasizes to the HuffPost.
It is impossible to know if Covid-19 is the reason that brought all these new patients to an office. Especially since there is no national data on the psychological state of the French relating to the epidemic. But the finding is there. And everyone, psychological background or not, is potentially affected.
For Antoine Pelissolo, psychiatric patients are indeed far from being the only potential victims of the health crisis. Even if their situation could worsen: “These are patients already in difficulty, whose care has been complicated by the epidemic. Add to that the stressor itself, ”he says. For the population as a whole, concerns are not to be outdone. “The worry, the disruption concerns everyone, those with a background and those who don't,” he continues.
Gladys Mondière agrees with this. “People like you and me, who are doing quite well, can, under these circumstances, be completely shaken up in their functioning. Even someone who "is doing well" can have a hard time dealing with anxiety in the long run, "she says.
To explain the capital importance that this epidemic can take on the mental health of a population, Samuel Dock argues that the coronavirus has effected a real shift in all our representations, including our societies.
“The body is the favorite object of our contemporaneity, we must take care of it at all costs because we only have one, which is doomed to age, and we must live at all costs, because our chance to exist , it's now, ”he begins. However, the coronavirus “upsets these representations, it is the threat of a disease that reminds us that our body is doomed to disappear and that we are not immortal,” he continues.
Not only can our body get sick at any moment, but we have to move it in a space that has become “dangerous”. "The other has become a potential vector of the virus, an object that can infect us," says Samuel Dock. “The other human being, usually the guarantor of the social pact, has become an antagonist. Faced with this vulnerability, the first posture is to consider the strangeness of our interlocutor. It's a total revolution, ”he continues.
Adding to this paradigm shift is the uncertainty we face. “Humans like what is tangible and understandable, their functioning is made up of routines, yet we are in a situation of uncertainty with successive and not always consistent information”, indicates Gladys Mondière, referring to the evolution of recommendations on wearing a mask since the start of the crisis. “Not a person, even a doctor, knows what to do. Obviously, that creates anxiety, ”she adds.
“Uncertainty is the main driver of anxiety disorders, which can lead to depression. It is a very favorable breeding ground for developing disorders, ”adds Antoine Pelissolo.
With this feeling of being dispossessed of all decision-making and, more generally, of our daily lives, will mental health specialists have to deal with a wave of depression and other mental disorders? It is still too early to tell, but they see an increase in psychological disorders. “Some people already have very phobic reactions, others will have anxiety, insomnia, even depression,” says Samuel Dock.
Depressions, post-traumatic stress
"The holidays are over, work is resuming, which can be expected in the coming weeks is the equivalent of post-traumatic stress," says Gladys Mondière. The difference, with the coronavirus, is its duration. Compared to a traumatic event – an attack, for example – an epidemic takes place over time. “It's new in terms of length, but there will be a lot of similarities; phobias, fear of contamination, withdrawal into oneself. These are of course only assumptions for the moment, ”she tempers.
Indeed, we have too little perspective on the situation. It is currently impossible to know what consequences the first wave of Covid-19 may have had. But, for Antoine Pelissolo, “everything we know about times of prolonged social crisis will apply to this situation. Even if certain mechanisms will be specific to it: uncertainty about health, the risk to life, the feeling of threat, ”he explains. More mental disorders and depressions are therefore to be considered, according to him.
This is without taking into account the social consequences, such as job losses, which "we know are the triggers of pathologies", adds the psychiatrist.
Gladys Mondière also fears a series of professional burnouts. "Teleworking has not been prepared, some no longer know how to distinguish the professional from the private, and the return to work at the start of the school year is being done under drastic conditions," she said.
How to prepare, and how to deal with it? “The mental health system in psychiatry is fragile. We are already very quickly saturated, ”worries Antoine Pelissolo. "If the requests for consultation were to increase in intensity, the answers will not be able to follow because we are already in tension".
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