One of the most frustrating, and sadly too common, diagnoses that patients get when they discuss their Long Covid symptoms with doctors, is that of a mental health disorder.
Covid-19 disregulates the nervous system causing symptoms that can be misinterpreted as anxiety. It also causes crippling fatigue which can sometimes be diagnosed as depression. Understanding the difference between a mental health issue and Long Covid is vital to ensure the patient gets the support and treatment they need, and are not prescribed with unnecessary medication or sent for counseling instead of being assessed for a genuine medical issue.
This article in Medscape “Long Covid and Mental Illness: New Guidance” is an important acknowledgement that Long Covid is not caused by Mental Health problems, but that it may exacerbate existing issues or create new ones.
“There is some evidence that the body’s inflammatory response — specifically, circulating cytokines — may contribute to the worsening of mental health symptoms or may bring on new symptoms of anxiety or depression”
It is natural though that someone suffering from Long Covid may have great fear and anxiety as they face an uncertain future, and suffer from depression as the losses take their toll. They therefore need mental health support alongside treatments for their physical symptoms.
Having a diagnostic test to diagnose Long Covid will one day avoid the issue of patients being incorrectly diagnosed with mental health issues. In the meantime we need to rely on our doctors to recognise Long Covid and the impact it has on all systems of the body, including the nervous system.
Believing patients when they say they are not anxious or depressed is a good start.