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Not Our Favorite Subject

Monday, January 16th, 2023

by Douglas L. Anderson, PsyD


I know, this is South Dakota, and we have generally done our best to look away from COVID and its impact.  But since it is the beginning of a new year, it is worth putting COVID in perspective, particularly from a psychological point of view.

As of January 4, we had 54 people hospitalized due to COVID.  We had 511 new cases in the week of December 28 - January 3.  We had six deaths that week due to COVID as well.  The total number of deaths in South Dakota contributed to COVID sat at 3,124.  This data is on the SD Department of Health COVID Dashboard.  

During the most recent week of January 4-10, we had 523 additional cases of COVID, 52 people were in the hospital with COVID symptoms, and nine more people died from COVID or COVID-related medical issues.  

An article published by the Harvard School of Public Health indicates that “According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about 20% of American adults who have had COVID-19 have developed long COVID, which is defined as experiencing COVID-19-related symptoms, such as fatigue, brain fog, or respiratory, heart, neurological, or digestive symptoms, for longer than four weeks after infection.”

The article further notes that “Severe COVID-19 illness increases the risk of long COVID, although people with milder COVID-19 cases can also develop long COVID. Symptoms, which can be debilitating, could last months or years, and little is known about which traits are linked to developing long COVID.”

In other words, we are all susceptible to long COVID, and about 20% of us who are sickened by COVID will experience some degree of long COVID.  

What is the interaction of mental health and long COVID?  For starters, people who are already struggling with loneliness, anxiety, depression, and high stress are a lot more likely to develop long COVID.  This shouldn’t surprise us too much.  We know that psychological stress can contribute to disease severity.

In short, a variety of mental health issues and concerns can contribute to increased risk of long COVID.  So what impact does COVID have on post-COVID mental health?

A National Institute of Health study indicates that “people are more likely to develop mental illnesses or disorders in the months following infection, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). People with long COVID may experience many symptoms related to brain function and mental health.”

By now we have all heard the phrase that “we may be done with COVID, but COVID isn’t done with us.”  It is unfortunately alive and active in South Dakota, and many more of us will be sickened by COVID and negatively impacted post-COVID, and some of us will die.  

I have a few takeaways.  First, if you experience significant anxiety, depression, and stress you will want to be mindful of the additional risk of greater negative impact if you catch COVID.  Second, if you catch COVID you will want to be mindful of the potential to develop a variety of mental health symptoms.  Third, getting additional help and support is going to be increasingly important in the age of COVID.

We can be one source of additional support.  We have competent and caring therapists in all four of our locations - River Counseling Services in Platte, Sioux Falls Psychological Services, and Stronghold Counseling Services in Sioux Falls and in Yankton - who will meet you where you are, offering hope. That is our mission. You may schedule an appointment at the Platte office at 605-337-3444 or meet with one of our Sioux Falls or Yankton based therapists from your computer, smartphone, or in person at any of our clinics. To schedule an appointment, please call 605-334-2696.