Uncertainty continuing in pandemic

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, local psychiatrists and counselors say there are indications of some lingering effects such as anxiety, depression and uncertainty.
"We are finding that many of the reports that come in are indicating some cognitive problems with memory, focus and attention and some depression," said Dr. Shailesh “Bobby” Jain, professor and regional chair of psychiatry at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. “It is not clear whether these individuals have a preexisting condition that got exacerbated, or have a new condition that is solely from the infection."
"We do know that folks who have struggled with COVID infections tend to take a prolonged period of time to come back to baseline …," Jain added.
Dr. Zershana Khan, a second-year resident, said the she has noticed that they are seeing a lot more patients with depression and anxiety and it’s not just adults; it’s also children.
Having children at home taking classes virtually is a stress on mothers. In addition to staying home for school, Dr. Sharmin Nabi, said the child is not going outside playing with their friends.
"That is making mother stress out and they are coming to us for depression," Nabi said.
Khan said there is definitely a possibility of isolation affecting conspiracy theories. She noted that even though a vaccine has been developed there is still a lot of uncertainty about a lot of things which could be contributing to people buying into conspiracy theories.
Dr. Nancy Madia said for people who are working at home or students who are at home, try to keep a schedule.
"Once you get off schedule and you’re out of your routine, anxiety has a chance of becoming more distressing …," Madia said.
Eden Simmons, a licensed professional counselor at Odessa College, said she was offering counseling sessions by telehealth and telephone even before the pandemic, but it has picked up a lot more.
“But right now I offer in person with masks, social distancing, online for telehealth and then phone sessions, so the student gets to pick just based on what works best for them,” Simmons said.
Simmons said there are a variety of issues that she’s seeing in students.
“Things that I have seen more recently like I was talking about that looming sense of uncertainty and (with) our students there’s a lot of concern about the job market and job insecurity. And some of that is geared toward themselves because, like I was saying, a lot of them are part time. Part-time workers are usually the first ones to get their hours cut, so that’s a bit of a stressor. Then I also see a lot of stress around family members like spouses and parents losing work and the uncertainty there. Then also just a lot of concern about family members and COVID and being safe while we’re also trying to balance being out in the community and getting our economy going. … I think a lot of our students are also struggling there as well,” Simmons said.
She added that this is a unique situation and not something that therapists are trained for in school.
“… We get trained for crisis work and like a natural disaster and that would be about the closest thing I can compare this to, but like I said earlier the duration, how long this has gone on is really unique being a collective stressor. That’s something I don’t think most people have seen in our lifetime,” Simmons said.
Simmons counsels early college high school and dual credit students. Asked if some of those students have gone backward socially, she said it depends on the person.
“It’s so individual, but like I said if prior to the pandemic you had a tendency to be more isolated and less social this has definitely exacerbated that. It’s more socially acceptable to do that right now, so again, it’s just really important to find those opportunities to stretch that social muscle for those students and kind of get back out and do things,” she said.
She added that there’s no real substitute for face-to-face interaction.
“I’ve definitely seen some students really struggle with the lack of normal routine. Prior to this, we had lots of activities on campus for students and opportunities for them to get together outside of class. It is a little more limited with the way we’ve been having to do things this year. Then again, I know a lot of the families of our students really want to try to minimize their risk and their time out in the community. That also kind of limits the social opportunities outside of school,” Simmons added.