When Corona frustration turns into Corona depression

29. April 2021

For more than a year, the issue of Corona has been running in a continuous loop. Many people experience feelings of exhaustion, resignation and incomprehension, even if they basically support the measures to contain the Corona virus. Corona frustration runs through our daily lives – whether at work or in our personal lives. But how much Corona frustration can our psyche take? When does corona frustration turn into corona depression?

Different types of corona depression

We speak of corona depression when an existing depression worsens in the course of the corona crisis or when a first illness occurs that is related to the limitations and stresses of the corona crisis. The individual medical history of those affected shows that corona depression can have different starting points. Often the current stresses are another piece of the puzzle in the history of the development of a depressive disorder. In the worst case, however, they are the proverbial “tipping of the scales” in the development of a depressive disorder

Existing depressive episodes are exacerbated by Corona
For people already affected by depression before the Corona pandemic, the situation is challenging. For one thing, existing support systems are being eroded. For example, outpatient psychotherapy is currently often available only through digital means. Likewise, group therapies and self-help groups cannot take place in presence

On the other hand, the pandemics eliminate important supports and routines that those affected could otherwise use to structure their everyday lives: Contact with work colleagues, leisure activities, meetings with friends, culture… These protective frameworks were taken away in the pandemic and at the same time positive and rewarding experiences were minimized with them. If these positive reinforcers fall away, it becomes increasingly difficult to develop enough drive to cope with everyday life

Corona depression: A major emotional challenge

Emotional challenges are higher during the corona crisis. Feelings such as insecurity, dejection, anger, overwhelm, sadness, existential distress, resignation, or powerlessness create internal struggles. Coping with these challenges even healthy and resilient individuals. For many people, the existing inner resources are (by now) no longer sufficient to deal with these feelings

Stress as a trigger for corona depression
Long-term stress is harmful to our organism. The issue of corona has unfortunately become a so-called long-term stressor. We are plagued by fears for the future, existential pressure and social isolation. Even worse, we experience a feeling of powerlessness and loss of control. Research shows that it is this feeling of powerlessness that amplifies the stress response in our bodies. The stress hormones that are released affect the psyche: We find it harder to switch off and the mind is constantly on alert. Continuous stress is a risk factor for the development of depression

It is often the case that in the case of corona depression, unfavorable psychological structures were already present in advance. Symptoms that previously ran just below the threshold of a clinically diagnosable disorder become more severe in the corona pandemic and the mental state worsens. The disorder becomes in need of treatment. But how do you recognize corona depression that needs treatment?

Indicators of Corona Depression

Understandably, almost all people experience conflicting feelings right now. To a certain extent, it is possible to speak of corona frustration. But what characteristics can we draw on to distinguish corona frustration from corona depression?

  • Capacity to act: Healthy people are capable of acting despite all the adversities of the corona pandemic: they go about their jobs, perform their household duties, and try their best to come to terms with the situation. In depression, this ability to act is severely limited. In psychology, we find the concept of action or situation orientation: resilient people are predominantly action-oriented, even in difficult situations. Depression, on the other hand, typically leads to a stronger situation orientation, i.e., persistence in negative states.
  • Suffering pressure: As with all mental disorders, suffering pressure plays a crucial role in corona depression. It is worth asking: how high would I rate my current suffering pressure on a scale of 1-10 (1 stands for non-existent, 10 for unbearable). If this level of suffering is persistently in the top third of the scale, professional help should be sought.
  • Vibratory capacity to other emotional states: Vibratory capacity describes the ability to detach from feelings when circumstances require it. Exemplified by the ability to engage in pleasurable activities, which we can do as a substitute in corona time (such as online meetings with friends). In depression, this capacity is often reduced, and sufferers are strongly entrenched in their negative feelings and thoughts.
  • Distractibility: Healthy people can usually turn their attention back to other activities after staying in negative states for a while. They can devote themselves again to other activities that also have great importance for them besides Corona. In depression, this distractibility is significantly reduced.
  • Healthy pragmatism: Can people meet the waves of Corona frust with a good dose of pragmatism or humor, this is usually a good sign. How often do we just hear exclamations such as “No use” or “Eventually, this spook is also over!”. This attitude towards life is protective against corona depression.
  • Duration: Of course, the time dimension also plays a role in the development of corona depression. Short-term “sags” are not yet an alarm signal. But if these last longer than two weeks, a clarification of the symptomatology should be made.
  • Specific depression symptoms: In the preceding points, this is a presentation specifically tailored to Corona. When a depressive disorder is suspected, of course, the generally accepted diagnostic criteria must also be observed. These include listlessness, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, and the loss of all joy. For a full listing, see the blog post on depression.

When Corona frustration rises noticeably, action is needed. We are not helpless to psychological lows, but can apply strategies that can protect against a developing corona depression.

Strategies against corona depression

First, it is helpful to adhere to the guiding principle “Create and protect routines”. If we keep a regular daily routine, fulfill our duties and allow ourselves rest periods, this has a positive influence on our state of mind

Of course, we are currently plagued by more negative thoughts, such as “Will this never pass with the Corona pandemic?” or “I can no longer stand this uncertainty, this isolation.” This is where a meaningful way of dealing with negative thoughts can be practiced. This includes taking a step back from the thousands and thousands of thoughts that buzz through our heads every day and seeing them for what they are: Thoughts – nothing more. Even if we have these thoughts, we can still do helpful things in our lives. We can learn to live well in a bad situation anyway. Such a mindset can prevent corona depression

How we handle feelings can also influence the development of corona depression. For example, most people often try to fight feelings internally. We would all prefer to banish bad feelings from our lives. However, this is rarely crowned with success, so the premise that “feelings are for feeling” is more helpful here. Really feeling feelings of frustration and powerlessness can take away their threatening nature. After all, every feeling eventually subsides, just like the anger so often cited as an example, which eventually fades

It is also advisable to maintain exchange with other people despite all adversity. Man as a social being needs contact and closeness. These can also be established with physical distance. Online or in the fresh air, we can exchange Corona frustrations, give each other ideas about what could be helpful, and give each other support

Under the given circumstances, our main choice at the moment is to live our central values even in small ways. We can ask ourselves, “What kind of person do I want to be?” or “In which directions do I want to direct my energies?”. Often, a direction then comes to our mind in which we can move, even in corona times. Even small steps in the direction of our values are steps in the right direction!

Corona depression: LIMES Castle Clinics as a contact

From the very beginning, the LIMES Castle Clinics have addressed the issue of corona from a psychological perspective. Our professionals experience day after day that the ongoing crisis does not leave our psyche unaffected. If you would like professional support to help you cope with the Corona crisis, please do not hesitate to contact us. We are here for you.

Categories: Depression Long-Covid

Friederike Reuver
Autor:in Friederike Reuver
"Die LIMES Schlosskliniken haben sich auf die Behandlung von psychischen und psychosomatischen Erkrankungen spezialisiert. Mit Hilfe des Blogs möchten wir als Klinikgruppe die verschiedenen psychischen Erkrankungen näher beleuchten und verschiedene Therapien sowie aktuelle Themen vorstellen."

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