A son takes care of his father, putting his hand on his shoulder to comfort him.

There are currently no known medications or rehabilitation treatments that cure long COVID.

Photo: Getty Images / AsiaVision

Palpitations, tachycardia, dizziness, brain fog, memory loss: the symptoms of long COVID sometimes resemble those associated with mental health problems. Do these symptoms exist because the virus has a physiological effect? Or is it the chronicity of symptoms that causes people to develop psychological symptoms?

According to New York psychiatrist Yochai Re’em, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. For some, their mental health issues are exacerbated by the virus; for others, they are developing these symptoms for the first timehe explains.

When the first cases of long COVID began to appear, Dr. Re’em, who also had months of COVID-19 symptoms, sought to better understand why some people developed symptoms of depression or depression. anxiety. I was sick for months. And after a few weeks, I was confused, he testifies. I was wondering what was going on. Why wasn’t I healing?

He already knew that studies of depression suggested that inflammation in the body can, in some cases, affect the brain and alter mood.

Today, more and more studies show that sustained inflammation caused by the presence of SARS-CoV-2 fragments appears to have effects on the brain and, therefore, on concentration, mood and fatigue .

but it seems to go in that direction. I have no doubt that this plays a role in some of the psychological symptoms experienced by long COVID patients. We’re not 100% sure, but it seems to point in that direction. I have no doubt that this plays a role in some of the psychological symptoms experienced by long COVID patients. We’re not 100% sure, but it seems to point in that direction. I have no doubt that this plays a role in some of the psychological symptoms experienced by long COVID patients.says Dr. Re’em.

But because there are no tests yet to diagnose long COVID, many people continue to be wrongly diagnosed with psychological disorders, laments Carrie Anna McGinn, who suffers from long COVID and who co-signed , with Dr Re’em, a scientific article on mental health and long COVID (New window).

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chronic diseases associated with infections. There are a lot of people who are stigmatized. There is a lack of education and understanding for all chronic illnesses associated with infections”}}”>There are a lot of people who are stigmatized. There is a lack of education and understanding for all chronic illnesses associated with infectionssaid Ms. McGinn.

There is nothing worse for a patient than being repeatedly told that their symptoms are unexplainable.adds psychologist Sonia Ginchereau, who has her own private practice and works for the CIUSSS of the National Capital.

When your doctor can’t even help you, it’s terrible helplessness.

A quote from Sonia Ginchereau, psychologist

Furthermore, she points out, patients suffering from long COVID, such as those suffering from Lyme disease or fibromyalgia, have great difficulty convincing their doctors that their illness is not in their head.

There’s a lot [de médecins] who say it doesn’t exist [la COVID longue], deplores Carrie Anna McGinn. Long COVID attracts the same level of skepticism as for other post-infectious diseases. But quality of life, and even long-term prognosis, depends on being believed by the healthcare professional.

Psychologist Sonia Ginchereau is one of the health professionals who, from the first months of the pandemic, helped the first patients with long COVID obtain rehabilitation services.

While Ginchereau doesn’t treat the physical effects of the illness, she works to direct patients to the right resources and health professionals who understand long COVID, or at least post-infectious illnesses.

You must first work with the doctor and try to establish a clear diagnosis which will subsequently help the person seek resources from the employer or insurance companies.said Ms. Ginchereau.

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Obtaining the right diagnosis is all the more necessary, since the treatments suggested for depression or anxiety are generally very different.

Marie* knows something about it. Infected in November 2020, she still suffers from various post-COVID symptoms. He was sometimes advised to get active or to resume his usual rhythm, which rather led to crash . The crash energy which can last for days or even weeks.

*Marie wished to remain anonymous, so as not to harm her treatments with these health professionals.

A feeling of helplessness that leads to depression and anxiety

While there is growing evidence that COVID-19 is one of the causes of these psychological symptoms, uncertainty and lack of recognition of the illness also impacts the well-being of those suffering. of long COVID.

Moreover, a recent meta-analysis showed that some post-COVID patients were 46% more likely to have suicidal thoughts (New window) during the post-acute phase of the disease.

A study, published in the journal BMC Psychiatry (New window)shows that people suffering from long COVID are about twice as likely to develop mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, than people who do not suffer from it.

The people around them don’t believe it. They themselves have difficulty believing it. They experience anxiety, questioning, a feeling of loss of control. Then it leads to a depressive state. And yes, it can lead to suicidal crisessaid Sonia Ginchereau.

The majority of these people are not suicidal, believes Ms. Ginchereau. They want to get through it, they want to find ways to control their symptoms. Despair is probably one of the hardest things to deal with. We must help them find hope in this uncertainty.

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Carrie Anna McGinn agrees. She often sees this type of distress within the long COVID support group she runs on social media.

Often it is the pain that is expressed. It is not a desire to die, it is a desire to have adequate support.

A quote from Carrie Anna McGinn

Need help for yourself or a loved one?

  • Across Canada: 988
  • In Quebec: 1 866 CALL (277-3553) (or by text: 535353)
  • On the web: www.suicide.ca (New window)

For Dr Re’em, many people suffering – or who think they are suffering – from long COVID feel isolated, misunderstood and alone. Little by little, they lose confidence in themselves and feel enormous frustration at not having any answers or help.

Marie* is also part of online support groups, even though a health professional advised her against it. He told me that being in a group could maintain our symptoms. But, on the contrary, it helps me a lot. The group confirms to me that I am not alone.

Many people had to put their lives on hold, says Ms. Ginchereau. They are in waiting mode, but in the meantime, their lives pass. Interventions are needed to help them resume a life that will surely be different from the one before, but more interesting than simply being on pause.

And that’s without taking into account the repercussions on married life, family life, social life and professional life, underline Ms. Ginchereau and Ms. McGinn.

There isn’t really an adequate social and financial support net for people who are sicksays Carrie Anna McGinn (New window)who adds that families also experience great upheaval when one of their members can no longer contribute to daily tasks.

Despite the many pitfalls experienced by people suffering from long COVID, Sonia Ginchereau wants to remind them that there is hope. It’s difficult to do because it forces the person to grieve and adapt. But there are ways to live better despite illness.

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