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Experts Opine – Quarantine can lead to mental health issues

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Quarantine and isolation have become buzzwords in these times of Covid-19 pandemic. A majority of persons who have either tested positive for Covid-19 or are close contacts of positive patients are ending up in quarantine in their homes. “For many people who are in home quarantine, it could be stressful, taxing and a distressing experience. Living alone cut-off from family members and the society triggers anxiety, increases stress and become a reason for triggering major mental health concerns” said  Dr K Chandra Sekhar, Consultant Psychiatrist.

Based on the mental health care guidelines of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which were prepared by National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, quarantine could lead to physical, psychological, emotional and financial stress due to fear of contracting the illness, boredom, loneliness, loss of personal freedom and lack of social togetherness.

The most common condition that could arise during quarantine is anxiety, which happens due to uncertainty of outcome, fear of turning positive on testing and stigma. It can range from mild to severe, often leading to panic attacks. ‘Fear of contracting a severe and possibly life-threatening illness, isolation from the family, helplessness and guilt associated with behaviours which led to infection and not being able to perform duties, etc. can lead to depression and anxiety. Some people in quarantine may even harbour suicidal thoughts,’ the NIMHANS report said.

Quite often, people see it as a threat when faced with inevitability of staying in hospital quarantine, which can be a significant traumatic event that could trigger acute stress disorder said Dr Parvathi Kashyap, Clinical Psychologist, Queens NRI Hospital and Affiliate  Psychologist for Optum International Healthcare UK.  People exposed to hospital quarantine have a higher risk of later development of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome). Such people will be constantly bogged down by thoughts like whether they have performed their duties adequately, fear of death, apprehension towards the family’s reaction to one’s death, guilt, added Dr Kashyap.

The Health Ministry said that there is a possibility that drugs currently used to treat Covid-19 are known to cause psychiatric symptoms either in the form of emergence of new symptoms or exacerbation of existing symptoms. According to Dr. Rekha Dutt, Consultant Psychiatrist,  some of the commonly reported psychiatric symptoms associated with the use of chloroquine, steroids, and anti-retrovirals are psychosis, delirium, mood disorders, and cognitive disturbances.

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