As we’ve learned over the past year, one of the hardest things in battling a new virus is dealing with the unknowns. COVID-19 has spread across the globe in an instant, and here we are a year later, still learning what the fallout from all these infections can be.

Because it’s not just death that people infected with COVID-19 need to worry about. It’s also about the long-term health impacts that far too many people are currently facing, to include adolescents.

One of these effects, it seems, could be an increased risk of immune-mediated depression.

What is immune mediated depression?

Immune-mediated depression refers to the relationship between the immune system and depression, particularly inflammation, ”recently explained licensed clinical psychologist Jenna Palladino, PsyD.

Researchers looked at this potential link and found that dysfunction of the immune system may, in fact, contribute to increased rates of depression. This seems to be especially true in people with autoimmune diseases.

Neuropsychiatrist Adam Kaplin, MD, Ph.D., explained that, “in the case of autoimmune diseases and infections, the level of inflammation is much higher, resulting in pronounced rates of depression which are often resistant to the disease. treatment with conventional antidepressants faced with such pronounced levels of immune overactivation.

He went on to say that the rate of clinical depression seen in patients affected by Covid-19 was “incredibly high”. A fact to which the families of people infected with Covid-19 should pay attention.

What we know so far

Doctors and scientists obviously need to learn as we go about the long-term impacts of Covid-19, but Palladino theorized that the prolonged inflammation that occurs as a result of Covid-19, as well as the effects on the immune system, which may persist after exposure, may be at the root of the increased risk of depression that doctors notice in patients post-infection with Covid.

“At this point, long-haul are defined as those who show symptoms for weeks after having COVID-19, which casts a wide net,” Kaplin said. “While there is still research being done on the impact of the disease on long-haul people, the evidence for persistent immune system activation and its relationship to depression has made a compelling case.”

He pointed to a recent research study at Harvard, which found that 52.4% of COVID-19 met criteria for moderate or greater symptoms of major depression four months after their initial infection. And he said it’s important to note that COVID-19 cases are almost invariably accompanied by an excessive host immune system. reply.

These two pieces of information, he explained, make a compelling argument that what COVID-19 patients are going through is really immune-mediated depression.

Of course, other possibilities are also to be considered.

“Stress associated with the pandemic, such as increased sedentary lifestyle, psychological stress, social isolation and less healthy food intake can also impact the functioning of the immune system,” Palladino said. “The combination of stress from the pandemic and the direct impact of COVID-19 on the immune system may exacerbate the likelihood of depression in long-haul travelers. “

Either way, people infected with COVID-19 – and especially ‘long-haul’ who are still symptomatic weeks later – have an undeniable increased risk of depression.

Fighting immune-mediated depression

With vaccinations now open to children 12 and older, one of the best ways to prevent this symptom in those who have not yet contracted Covid-19 is to vaccinate your family.

But Palladino said it’s also important to remember that depression can impact anyone. If you or a family member is suffering from symptoms of depression from whatever cause, she suggested these coping skills to help you get over it:

  • Exercise: Finding ways to move our bodies by walking, running, dancing, biking, hiking, working in the garden, or whatever works for you can help us deal with stress and improve well-being.
  • Healthy Choices: Taking care of our physical health by eating a healthy diet and limiting the consumption of alcohol or other substances is important. Trying a new healthy recipe is a great way to nourish our bodies and try something new.
  • Sleep: Continuing to practice useful sleep practices, such as limiting time in bed and avoiding naps, can help us get more restful sleep at night and feel better throughout the day.
  • Structure: Maintaining structure and routine helps provide certainty and stability.
  • Connect: Find ways to stay in touch with loved ones in a socially distant way, such as small group meetings, a walk with a friend, a call to a family member, or joining a local video support group, club reading, dinner, etc.
  • Disconnect: While it is important to stay on top of current events, limiting the time spent on social networks and media can help improve well-being and minimize stress.
  • Breathe: Participating in meditation, deep breathing, or a brief yoga practice can help manage stress and increase calm.
  • Go out: having fun spending time in nature, spending time with pets, encouraging creativity, trying a new hobby, or spending time reconnecting with an old hobby can also be help improve our mood and bring some joy in everyday life.

“The public should understand that if they have had or have had a loved one who exhibits symptoms of depression, it is because of the impact of the inflammation of the infection on the mood-regulating functions of the patient. his brain, ”Kaplin said. “Essentially, this is just another effect of COVID-19, not a personal weakness or character flaw. And just like the other consequences of COVID-19, depression should be assessed by a trained healthcare professional and treated. “

As parents, in particular, it’s important to pay attention to any changes in mood and behavior that your children may experience after infection. Don’t wait if you, your partner, or your child have symptoms of depression. Help is available, and everyone deserves to use this help as soon as possible.

So pick up the phone and call a doctor. The sooner you do this, the sooner your family can find a healthy place.

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