Learning to cope with anxiety and depression during the COVID-19 crisis

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Hospitals in central Indiana are seeing an increase in the number of people suffering from depression or anxiety during the coronavirus crisis.

According to the US Census Bureau, 35% of adults in Indiana now show signs of one of the mental health disorders.

“In comparison to pre-pandemic levels, mental health issues are going up,” said Dr. Mitesh Patel, a psychiatrist at Ascension St. Vincent Stress Center.

The rate of increase is higher for younger people, women and people of color. One explanation on the last subset could be Vitamin D levels. Dr. Patel says Vitamin D deficiency is more common in people that are in a different latitude than their own country, or country where their family is originally from. This could include racial minorities.

But as a whole, Dr. Patel says the increase could be brought on by several factors, including fear of getting COVID -19, financial worries and maybe spending too much time with family cooped up in one home.

Anxiety can be useful. It alerts us to important situations, but Dr. Patel says if let untreated, anxiety can get worse over time. The disorder also accompanies depression, which can lead to suicidal thoughts Dr. Patel adds.

Symptoms of anxiety and depression include excessive worry, restlessness, guilt or physical symptoms like panic attacks.

Dr. Patel says knowing the symptoms is important, but so is learning how to manage them.

“Going for a walk, doing a puzzle, having a conversation with a loved one. It doesn’t mean those stresses go away, it means we deal with those stresses once the emotional intensity dies down and we’re in a rational place,” Dr. Patel said.

Dr. Patel stresses that coping is different than avoidance, but if those strategies aren’t working, it may be time to see a professional or seek medical advice.

With unemployment rates still high, Dr. Patel says reading books can help ease symptoms of anxiety.

Dr. Patel recommends the following: