Staying at home and two meters away from our fellow human beings should protect us from infection and stop the corona virus. But weeks of social distance and hardly any contact with friends, colleagues and parents – what does that do to our psyche?
Our world is turned upside down. During the exit restrictions we have to do without a lot of things that were taken for granted before Corona – and the worst thing for most people is the lack of contact with friends. Many leisure activities such as football, fitness clubs, club or restaurant visits, where we could relax or distract ourselves, are restricted or prohibited. Otherwise we would come into too close contact with too many people and thus increase the rate of infections with the corona virus . Now we work in the home office, hardly go out of the house and when we do, then only go shopping, jogging in nature or taking a walk. We keep our distance and avoid any contact out of respect and mutual care. Although we urgently need closeness right now in order to be able to cope with this crisis more easily together, only social distance helps us. Nobody knows how they would survive a possible infection and an effective cure against Covid-19 is not yet on the market. That scares a lot of people.
With a hug we could forget some worries and calm down. Because touch releases the hormone oxytocin, emphasizes the psychologist Martin Grunwald from the University of Leipzig. It helps reduce stress and strengthen the immune system . But social distancing means renouncing contact. Anyone who now lives as a single and longs for a hug from their best friend can only hope for the time after Corona. Hugging the grandmother to give her consolation is also completely absent at the moment. Compensating for this lack of contact with dogs or cats is only possible to a limited extent, explains the sense of touch researcher Prof. Dr. Martin Grunwald.
For a few people, retreating into their own four walls even brings positive aspects with it. You develop new creative ideas, have more time with the family, less time pressure and find it a way to slow down. But this can only succeed if there are no financial or health concerns in the foreground. However, current studies tend to confirm the opposite: Since the outbreak of the pandemic, there has been a significant increase in depression and anxiety.
It is observed by psychologists and psychiatrists around the world that people who already suffer from a mental illness are affected by social isolationis reinforced even more. The longer the measures last, the more likely it is that healthy people will develop mental illness. In the UK, the Lancet Psychiatry published a call for psychiatrists not to neglect the psychological consequences. Increasing loneliness, health concerns, stress, and financial problems put a strain on mental health. “The problem is too important to ignore,” says Rory O’Connor of the University of Glasgow. In America, a letter from the Psychiatric Association to the United States Congress indicated that more than a third of Americans say the coronavirus and the necessary containment measures are seriously affecting their mental health.
The demarcation of when a condition can turn into a serious mental illness is not easy in the current situation, because when washing hands becomes an obsession or a depressed mood turns into depression. However, if you seek help early on, you can free yourself from a vicious circle more quickly. Most psychotherapists recommend the first thing to do: structure your day. In addition, it is important to continue to maintain social contacts, but online or by phone. It’s best to talk about positive topics.
Resilience researchers like Professor Raffael Klatsch from the Leibniz Institute for Resilience Research in Mainz would like to use the online study to find out how each individual deals with the restrictions in order to derive recommendations. The Corona crisis is a great new challenge for all people and must not only be seen as an economic and social, but also as a psychological crisis, from which we will hopefully find our way out of it. It is a stress test for society and for each individual. However, it is not an innate ability to cope with crises optimistically and without psychological impairments, but an adjustment process. The hope of resilience research: one can learn and train mental resilience .