Living in Lockdown with a Mental Health Condition

Social-isolation; increased handwashing and cleaning; emerging from our homes for essentials only. These are all things we are all being asked to do as a matter of urgency in the face of the spread of the coronavirus. Most of us are finding these measures unnatural, but nevertheless, with a bit of effort, do-able and the least we can do in our bit to fight the spread of Covid-19. For some however, being told to hand wash, to not mix with others and to isolate really is not what they want to hear. Although put in place with the interests of everyone’s physical health at heart, these physical restrictions present extra and difficult challenges for those already dealing with a mental health condition.

Imagine trying to overcome OCD, where one of the main symptoms can be excessive cleanliness in the form of handwashing and cleaning, and then being told to do exactly these things even more in order to protect your physical health and that of others. Or, if you are already feeling lonely and isolated, being asked to distance yourself even further from others causing further isolation and depression. Or perhaps suffering from extreme anxiety and now having to cope with the added stresses of this crisis, worrying about relatives, perhaps the threat of losing your job, how to pay the bills. The lockdown becomes especially challenging.

If you are one of the many people living with a mental health condition and at the same time trying to abide by the rules of lockdown, what can you do to ensure that your condition does not worsen?

  • It’s important to follow very closely the advice given to you by your mental healthcare professional as part of your treatment plan, especially sticking to medication regimes and really utilising the coping strategies you will have been given.
  • Make a real effort to stay in contact with trusted friends and family by making full use of the technology available such as the many online/video calling applications. If you feel yourself slipping, contact with the outside world and sharing your thoughts and feelings will be particularly important and helpful.
  • Limit the amount of news you listen to – choosing only a reliable source. Constant bombardment with information may not always be helpful and can cause additional anxiety.
  • If you can, get outside and take some exercise. Fresh air can be a real tonic.
  • Make full use of the many outside organisations available who can offer support during these tricky times. Many communities have even set up their own local lockdown support groups.
  • If you are finding things really difficult, make contact with your GP or your mental health professional and ask for additional support and guidance. Many, including our consultant psychiatrists at Private Psychiatry, are now providing remote consultations over the telephone or online.
  • In an emergency, the best course of action remains to contact 111 or 999 to seek urgent assistance.

Remember – the lockdown is temporary. It will end and these unusual and difficult circumstances will pass. It may not necessarily mean that an existing mental health condition has also passed, so at this time more than any other, we should be kind to ourselves and do what we need to do to protect and aid our mental health.



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