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Financial Stress Related to Covid-19 Pandemic and Depression

Updated: Oct 13, 2021

Forty-six percent of US households reported facing serious financial problems in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic (according to the Harvard School of Public Health).

It is well-known that financial stress can lead to feelings of despair and hopelessness – which predispose to developing clinical depression. In July of 2020, 40 percent of New Jersey renter households reported an expectation of being unable to pay their rent in the following month. Likewise, financial stress related to the Covid-19 pandemic interfered with the capacity for many adults to acquire needed healthcare for both acute and chronic healthcare conditions.

Isolation Related to Covid-19 Pandemic and Depression

Nearly 40 percent of all respondents in 2018 to a Cigna survey reported feeling isolated (per a publication of the American Psychological Association). Social isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic has increased, and study findings in Nature in 2021 revealed that the resulting psychological distress linked to isolation among young adults has been especially high. Furthermore, an article in The Lancet Psychiatry in 2021 noted that depressive symptoms prior to the Covid-19 pandemic (as well as during the Covid-19 pandemic) are consistently higher in adults living alone than in adults not living alone.

Since social isolation is linked to the development of depression – and becoming clinically-depressed is linked to progressively-increased withdrawal from social interaction – isolation as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic heightens the risk for depression. (This is yet another reason that seeking mental health counseling during this Covid-19 pandemic is a sensible approach to lessening both social isolation and the symptoms of clinical depression.)

Depression and Substance Abuse

At least 16 percent of all people afflicted with clinical depression have a co-disorder of alcohol abuse (while 18 percent have a co-disorder of drug abuse). Self-medicating with alcohol or drugs to reduce feelings of depression can actually increase depressive symptoms. One reason is that serotonin – which is a brain biochemical associated with pleasurable feelings that is often decreased in people with clinical depression – is further decreased by excessive alcohol intake.

This reduction in serotonin also occurs due to the intake of various recreational drugs, but is especially linked to alcohol abuse. Consequently, the reliance on alcohol and/or drugs by people who are depressed to alleviate depressive symptoms typically becomes a vicious cycle.

Notably, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported the following statistics related to substance abuse between 2018-2019 in New Jersey:

  • An alcohol use disorder was reported by 4.6 percent of adults in New Jersey (and 1.5 percent of adolescents);

  • An illicit drug use disorder was reported by 2.7 percent of adults in New Jersey (and 2.5 percent of adolescents);

  • Opioid abuse or dependence was reported by 0.9% of people aged 12 and older in New Jersey

Depression and Grief due to Losses Resulting from Covid-19

Grief as a response to death or disability resulting from an illness – whether due to Covid-19 or some other cause – is a normal psychological reaction. According to an article in World Psychiatry, uncomplicated grief – while painful, consuming, and disruptive – is usually tolerable and time-limiting. In contrast, grief that is complicated (with generalized guilt feelings) and persists longer than normally experienced can progress to clinical depression.

More than 713,000 people in the US have died from a Covid-19 infection as of October 2021. Therefore, many people are experiencing grief specifically as a consequence of the pandemic. Receiving mental health therapy or counseling can help to prevent progression to clinical depression by enabling the sharing of that grief in a supportive counseling environment.

Why Mental Health Therapy or Counseling is Useful for Depression

Not everyone who is clinically depressed requires long-term use of antidepressant medication. There are many people experiencing depressive symptoms who benefit solely from regularly-scheduled sessions with a mental health therapist or counselor. Whether you take an antidepressant medication or not, interacting with a mental health therapist or counselor can aid you in finding ways to make life changes and/or taking other steps to cope with your depression.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the use of online mental health therapy or counseling has tremendously increased (as have diverse online activities) as a way to curb transmission of this coronavirus. Terri Watkins, MA, LPC, CCTP is a mental health counselor who works with adults, teens, couples, and families in New Jersey, and is available for online (telehealth) sessions. Whether you have experienced trauma, depression, or anxiety, consider scheduling a consultation with her to determine if engaging her as your mental health counselor is a good match for your needs.

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