Being ill for a long time can be very distressing, and many people find that this experience has an impact on their mental health and wellbeing. In this section, we explain how Long COVID can affect your mental health, as well as your physical health.
How can Long COVID affect my mental health?
While you're recovering from COVID-19, you might find you have time when you feel afraid, anxious, low or depressed. You might feel frustrated that it’s taking time to recover physically, which could make you irritable and angry.
You might find that you have PTSD as a result of your experience of COVID-19. Some people have nightmares or flashbacks because of a stay in intensive care, while others had the same feelings because they couldn’t go into hospital.
Thinking about this might make you feel stressed or irritable, or you might have problems sleeping. Talking to friends and family about your experience can be helpful, and your GP or other health care professional might be able to advise on what could help you.
This might then cause you to feel nervous or on edge, which can lead to physical symptoms such as breathlessness or difficulty breathing.
You may find that you end up being in a cycle of breathlessness caused by being physically breathless and being breathless because of anxiety.
Find out what good breathing looks like by watching the series of videos on the Physiotherapy for Breathing Pattern Disorders website.
There are lots of ways you can manage any fear or anxiety. These include:
- practising mindfulness meditation : there are lots of apps and online programmes to try, including mindful breathing exercises and the NHS Be Mindful online course
- practising visualisation (creating a picture of in your mind that makes you feel calm and relaxed)
- setting a ‘worry time’ – if you start worrying about things, note them down and save them for a particular time of the day when you will think about your worries.
- distracting yourself when you’re feeling anxious, perhaps by taking a gentle walk or calling a friend
- gradually starting to do things you enjoyed before you were ill, like gardening or DIY
- setting yourself a realistic plan for the day, with small goals that will give you a sense of accomplishment.
NHS Every Mind Matters also has lots of advice on looking after your mental health.
If you think you are experiencing symptoms of depression, anxiety or another mental health condition, speak to your GP or another health care professional. Support and treatment is available, and the sooner you seek help the sooner you’ll feel better.
You can also refer yourself for free NHS talking therapies through the NHS psychological therapies service (IAPT) without a referral from your GP.
The NHS Your Covid Recovery website also has advice on:
- managing fear and anxiety
- managing your mood
- coping with fear and frustration
- memory and concentration.
Help us help you
We need to understand more about breathing and other difficulties after COVID-19. If this affects you, or someone you care for, we would like to hear from you.
By taking our survey you will contribute important information. The data we collect will help guide research and help us develop our services. This will allow healthcare providers and others to better meet your needs.